OSMANIA UNIVERSITY LIBRARY
Call No. 81 3 S* J h fr& i- Accession No. 6
This book should be returned on or before the date last marked below,
Books by Brian Moore
The Lonely Passion of Judith Hearne
The Feast of Lupercal
The Luck of Ginger Coffey
The Luck of Ginger Coffey
The Luck of Ginger Coffey
A Novel by Brian Moore
An Atlantic Monthly Press Book
Little, Brown and Company Boston Toronto
COPYRIGHT, (C), 1960, BY BRIAN MOORE
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PRINTED IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
The Luck of Ginger Cofey
One Fifteen dollars and three cents. He counted it
and put it in his trouser-pocket. Then picked his Tyrolean
hat off the dresser, wondering if the two Alpine buttons
and the little brush dingus in the hatband weren't a shade
jaunty for the place he was going. Still, they might be
lucky to him. And it was a lovely morning, clear and crisp
and clean. Maybe that was a good augury. Maybe today
his ship would come in.
James Francis (Ginger) Coffey then risked it into the
kitchen. His wife was at the stove. His daughter Paulie
sat listless over Corn Flakes. He said "Good morning," but
his only answer came from Michel, the landlady's little
boy, who was looking out the window.
"What's up, lad?" Coffey asked, joining Michel. To-
gether, man and boy, they watched a Montreal Roads
Department tractor clambering on and off the pavement
as it shunted last night's snowfall into the street.
"Sit down, Ginger, you're as bad as the child," his wife
said, laying his breakfast on the kitchen table.
He tried her again. "Good morning, Veronica."
"H is mother was just in," said she, pointing to Michel.
"Wanting to know how long we were going to keep the
place on. I told her you'd speak to her. So don't forget to
pop upstairs and give our notice the minute you have the
"Yes, dear/' Flute! Couldn't a man get a bite of break-
fast into him before she started that nattering? He knew
about telling Madame Beaulieu. All right.
A boiled egg, one slice of toast and his tea. It was not
enough. Breakfast was his best meal; she knew that. But
in the crying poverty mood that was on her these last
weeks, he supposed she'd take his head off altogether if
he asked her for a second egg. Still, he tried.
"Would you make us another egg?" he said.
"Make it yourself," she said.
He turned to Paulie. "Pet, would you shove an egg on
"Daddy, I'm late."
Ah, well. If it was to be a choice between food and
begging them to do the least thing, then give him hunger
any day. He ate his egg and toast, drank a second cup of
tea and went out into the hall to put his coat on. Sheep-
skin-lined it was, his pride and joy; thirty guineas it had
cost him at Aquascutum.
But she came after him before he could flee the coop.
"Now, remember to phone me the minute you pick up
the tickets," she said. "And ask them about the con-
nection from Southampton with the boat train for Dublin.
Because I want to put that into my letter to Mother this
"And, by the way, Gerry Grosvenor's coming in at five.
So don't you be stravaging in at six, do you hear?"
What did she have to ask Gerry Grosvenor up here for?
They could have said good-by to Geriy downtown.
Didn't she know damn well he didn't want people seeing
the inside of this place? Flute! His eyes assessed their pres-
ent surroundings as Gerry Grosvenor's would. The lower
half of a duplex apartment on a shabby Montreal street,
dark as limbo, jerry-built fifty years ago and going off keel
ever since. The doors did not close, the floors buckled and
warped, the walls had been repapered antl repainted
until they bulged. And would bulge more, for it was a
place that people on their way up tried to improve, peo-
ple on their way down to disguise: all in vain. The hegira
of tenants would continue.
Still, what was the use in talking? She had asked
Gerry: the harm was done. "All right," he said. "Give us a
kiss now. I'm off"
She kissed him the way she would a child. "Not that I
know what I'm going to give Gerry to drink/' she said.
"With only beer in the house/'
"Sure, never mind," he said and kissed her quick again
to shut her up. "So long, now. I'll be home before five."
And got away clean.
Outside in the refrigerated air, snow fine as salt drifted
off the tops of sidewalk snowbanks, spiraling up and over
to the intersection where a policeman raised his white
mitt paw, halting traffic to let Coffey cross. Coffey
wagged the policeman the old salute in passing. By J, they
were like Russkis in their black fur hats. It amused him
now to think that, before he came out here, he had
expected Montreal would be a sort of Frenchy place.
French my foot! It was a cross between America and Rus-
sia. The cars, the supermarkets, the hoardings; they were
just as you saw them in the Hollywood films. But the peo-
ple and the snows and the cold that woman passing,
her head tied up in a babushka, feet in big bloothers of
boots, and her dragging the child along behind her on a
little sled wasn't that the real Siberian stuff ?
The other people at the bus stop noticed that the little
boy was not wearing his snow suit. But Coffey did not.
"Well, Michel," he said. "Come to see me off?"
"Come for candy."
"Now, there's a straight answer, at least," Coffey said,
putting his arm around the boy's shoulders and marching
him off to the candy store on the corner. "Which sort takes
your fancy, Michel?"
The child picked out a big plastic package of sour-
balls. "This one, M'sieurP"
"Gob stoppers," Coffey said. "The exact same thing I
used to pick when I was your age. Fair enough." He
handed the package over and asked the storeman how
By J, it was not cheap. Still, he couldn't disappoint the
kid, so he paid, led his friend outside, waited for the po-
liceman to halt traffic, then sent Michel on his way. "Re-
member," he said, "that's a secret. Don't tell anybody I
"Okay. Merci, M'sieur"
Coffey watched him run, then rejoined the bus queue.
He hoped Veronica wouldn't find out about those sweets,
for it would mean another lecture about wasting his
money on outsiders. But ah! Coffey remembered his boy-
hood, the joys of a penny paper twist of bullseyes. He
smiled at the memory and discovered that the girl next
to him in the queue thought he was smiling at her. She
smiled back and he gave her the eye. For there was life in
the old carcass yet. Yes, when the good Lord was handing
out looks, Coffey considered he had not been last in line.
Now, in his prime, he considered himself a fine big fel-
low with a soldierly straightness to him, his red hair thick
as ever and a fine mustache to boot. And another thing.
He believed that clothes made the man and the man he
had made of himself was a Dublin squire. Sports clothes
took years off him, he thought, and he always bought the
very best of stuff. As he rode downtown on the bus that
morning there wasn't a soul in Montreal who would say
There goes a man who's out of work. . . . Not on your
earthly. Not even when he went through the doorway of
the Unemployment Insurance Commission and marched
right up to Executive 6- Professional, which seemed the
right place for him.
"Fill it out at the table over there, Mr. Coffey," said the
counter clerk. Nice young fellow, no hint of condescen-
sion in his tone, very helpful and natural as though this
sort of thing happened to everyone. Still, pen in hand,
write in block letters or type, Coffey was faced once again
with the misleading facts of a life. In block letters, he be-
Born: May 14, 1916, DUBLIN, IRELAND.
Education: PLUNKETT SCHOOL, DUBLIN. NATIONAL UNI-
VERSITY OF IRELAND, UNIVERSITY COLLEGE, DUBLIN.
Specify degrees, honors, other accomplishments: [He had
not finished his B.A., but never mind.] BACHELOR OF
ARTS . . . [Pass.] 1938.
List former positions, giving dates, names of employers,
etc.: [Flute! Here we go.]
IRISH ARMY. 1939-1945. ASST. TO PRESS OFFICER, G.H.Q.
COMMISSIONED ND LIEUT. 1940; IST LIEUT. 1942.
KYLEMORE DISTILLERIES, DUBLIN. 1946-1948, SPECIAL AS-
SISTANT TO MANAGING DIRECTOR; 1949-1953, ASSISTANT
IN ADVERTISING DEPARTMENT.
COOMB-NA-BAUN KNITWEAR, CORK. 1953-1955, SPECIAL
COOTEHILL DISTILLERIES, DUBLIN/
DROMORE TWEEDS, CARRICK-
- BER 1955. SPECIAL
List Present Position:
[His position as of this morning, January 2, 1956, was
null and bloody void, wasn't it? So he put a line through
that one. Then read it all over, absent-mindedly brushing
the ends of his mustache with the pen. He signed with a
large, much-practiced signature.]
The wooden plaque in front of the young man who
looked over his application bore the name J. DONNELLY.
And naturally J. Donnelly, like all Irish Canadians, no-
ticed Coffey's brogue and came out with a couple of
introductory jokes about the Ould Sod. But the jokes
weren't half as painful as what came after them.
"I see you have your B.A., Mr. Coffey. Have you ever
considered teaching as a profession? We're very short of
teachers here in Canada."
"Holy smoke," said Coffey, giving J. Donnelly an hon-
est grin. "That was years ago. Sure, I've forgotten every
"I see," J. Donnelly said. "But I'm not quite clear why
you've put down for a public relations job? Apart from
your ah Army experience, that is?"
"Well now," Coffey explained. "My work over here as
Canadian representative for those three firms you see
there, why that was all promotion. Public relations, you
might call it."
"I see. . . . But, frankly, Mr. Coffey, I'm afraid that
experience would hardly qualify you for a public re-
lations position. I mean, a senior one."
There was a silence. Coffey fiddled with the little brush
dingus in his hat. "Well now, look here," he began. "I'll
put my cards on the table, Mr. Donnelly. These firms that
sent me out here wanted me to come back to Ireland
when they gave up the North American market. But I
said no. And the reason I said no is because I thought
Canada was the land of opportunity. Now, because of
that, because I want to stay, no matter wh^t, well, per-
haps I'll have to accept a more junior position here than
what I was used to at home. Now, supposing you make
me an offer, as the girl said to the sailor?"
But J. Donnelly offered only a polite smile.
"Or or perhaps if there's nothing in public relations,
you might have some clerical job going?"
"Clerical, Mr. Coffey?"
"Clerical isn't handled in this department, sir. This is
for executives. Clerical is one floor down."
"And at the moment, sir, ordinary clerical help is hard
to place. However, if you want me to transfer you?"
"No, don't bother/' Coffey said. "There's nothing in
public relations, is there?"
J. Donnelly stood up. "Well, if you'll just wait, I'll
check our files. Excuse me."
He went out. After a few minutes a typewriter began to
clacket in the outer office. Coffey shuffled his little green
hat and deerskin gauntlets until J. Donnelly returned.
"You might be in luck, Mr. Coffey," he said. "There's a
job just come in this morning for assistant editor on the
house organ of a large nickel company. Not your line ex-
actly, but you might try it?"
What could Coffey say? He was no hand at writing.
Still, needs must and he had written a few Army releases
in his day. He accepted the slip of paper and thanked the
"I'll phone them and tell them you'll be on deck
at eleven," J. Donnelly said. "Strike while the iron's hot,
eh? And here's another possibility, if the editor job
doesn't work out." He handed over a second slip of paper.
"Now, if nothing comes of either of those," he said,
"come back here and 111 transfer you to clerical, okay?"
Coffey pu the second slip in his doeskin waistcoat and
thanked the man again.
"Good luck," J. Donnelly said. "The luck of the Irish,
eh, Mr. Coffey?"
"Ha, ha," Coffey said, putting on his little hat. Luck of
the Canadians would suit him better, he thought. Still, it
was a start. Chin up! Off he sloped into the cold morning
and pulled out the first slip to check on the address. On
Beaver Hall Hill, it was. Up went his hand to signal a taxi,
but down it came when he remembered the fourteen dol-
lars left in his pocket. If he hurried, he could walk it.
Or shanks' mare it, as his mother used to say. Ah,
what's the sense giving Ginger any money for his tram,
she'd say; he'll never use it. Doesn't he spend every
penny on some foolishness the minute you put it in his
pocket? And it was true, then as now. He was no great
hand with money. He thought of himself in those far-off
days, hurrying to school, the twopence already spent in
some shop, whirling the satchel of schoolbooks around his
head, stopping at Stephen's Green to take out his ruler
and let it go tickety, tak, tdk among the railings of the
park. Dreaming then of being grown up; free of school
and catechism; free from exams and orders; free to go out
into a great world and find adventures. Shanks' mare
now along Notre Dame Street, remembering: the snow
beginning to fall, a melting frost changing gray fieldstone
office fronts to the color of a dead man's skin, hurrying
as once he had hurried to school. But this was not school.
School was thirty years ago and three thousand miles
away, across half a frozen continent and the whole At-
lantic Ocean. Why, even the time of day was different
from at home. Here it was not yet midmorning and there,
in Dublin, the pubs would be closing after lunch. It
made him homesick to think of those pubs, so he must
not think. No, for wasn't this the chance he>ad always
wanted? Wasn't he at long last an adventurer, a man
who had gambled all on one horse, a horse colored Can-
ada, which now by hook or crook would carry him to
fame and fortune? Right, then!
So shanks* mare he went across Place d'Armes under
the statue of Maisonneuve, an adventurer and a gambler
too, who had sailed out in sixteen forty-one to discover
this promised land, and shanks' mare past the Grecian
columns of a bank and do not think what's left in there,
but shanks' mare alone up Craig Street, remembering that
he was far away now from that wireless network of
friends and relations who, never mind, they would not let
you starve so long as you were one of them but who, if
you left home, struck out on your own, crossed the seas,
well, that was the end of you as far as they were con-
And shanks' mare up Beaver Hall Hill, last lap, all on
his onlie-oh, remembering that any man who ever
amounted to anything was the man who took a chance,
struck out, et cetera.
But oh! he was close to the line today. Only he knew
And at last, shanks'-maring it into a big office building,
riding up in an express elevator to the fifteenth floor, he
was let out into a very grand reception hall. Up he went
to a modern desk that was all glass and wooden legs
which let you see the legs of the smashing blond recep-
tionist behind it. Who smiled at him but lost her smile
when he said his name and in aid of what Ginger Coffey
had blown in. She was sorry but Mr. Beauchemin was
presently in conference and would you just sit over
there for a moment, sir? And would he just fill in this form
while he was waiting? In block letters, please. In block
letters he pondered once again the misleading facts of a
When he had set them down, he handed back the form,
and the girl read it over in front of him. Which mortified
him. There were so few things you could write down
when faced with the facts of a life. "Fine, sir," she said
in a schoolmistressy voice. "Now, perhaps while you're
waiting you'd like to familiarize yourself with our house
organ. Here's our latest issue."
That was very kind of her, he said. He took the glossy
little magazine and went back to the banquette to study
it. The Nickelodeon was the name of the house organ.
He wondered if that was funny on purpose but decided
not. Canadians saw nothing comical in the words "house
organ/' He flipped through the glossy pages. Pictures
of old codgers getting gold watches for twenty-five years
of well-done-thou-good-and-faithful. Wasn't it to avoid
the like of that that he had emigrated? He skipped
through the column of employee gossip called Nickel
Nuggets but looked long at the photos on the Distaff Do-
ings page. Some of the distaffers were very passable
pieces indeed. Well now, enough of that. He turned to
the main article which was entitled J. C. FURNTSS., Vice-
Pres. (Traffic): A PROFILE. It seemed that even J. C.
himself had started in humble circs as a chainman (what-
ever that was). Which was the rags to riches rise the
New World was famous for. Which cheered a fellow
up, because at home it was not like that. At home it was
Chinese boxes, one inside the other, and whatever you
started off as, you would probably end up as. Which was
why he had come here. Which was why, this morn-
ing, he had been stumped when faced with the facts
of a life.
For the true facts you could not put on an applica-
tion form, now could you? For instance, when Ginger
got out of the Army, Veronica's relatives had influence
at Kylemore Distilleries and the job they offered him was
a real plum, they said: Special Assistant to the Managing
Director. Plum! Two years as a glorified office boy. Get
me two tickets for the jumping at the Horse Show, Gin-
ger. Book me a seat on the six o'clock plane to London.
Go down to customs and see if you can square that stuff
away, Ginger. Orders, orders . . . And, after two years,
when Ginger asked for a raise and more responsibility,
the Managing Director gave him a sour look and kicked
him downstairs into the Advertising Department. Where,
when he tried some new ideas, the Advertising Manager,
a Neanderthal bloody man, name of Cleery, called him
in and said: "Where do you think you are, Coffey? New
York? Remember, the thing that sells whiskey in this
country is being on good terms with the publicans. Now,
get back to your desk at once."
Orders. Taking guff from powers that be. So, the min-
ute Ginger heard of an opening in a place called Coomb-
Na-Baun Knitwear in Cork, he resigned and over Veron-
cia's protests moved his family down there. But Cork
was not New York either. Ah, no. Orders, orders . , .
Fifty years behind the times. Taking guff. Never free.
In fact, he might never have got free if his father
(R.I.P.) hadn't died, leaving two thousand quid to Gin-
ger, enough to pay their debts and start them off again.
Again, he did it over Veronica's protests; but this time,
by J, he decided to get right out of the country. Far too
late now to do the things he once had dreamed of: pad-
dling down the Amazon with four Indian companions,
climbing a peak in Tibet or sailing a raft from Galway to
the West Indies. But not too late to head off for the New
World in search of fame and fortune. So he went up to
Dublin and took his old boss out to lunch. Filled the
Managing Director of Kylemore Distilleries with Jam-
met's best duck d Torange and asked him point-blank if
Kylemore would be interested in opening up a North
American market. They would not, said the Managing
Director. "All right then/' Coffey said. "You'll be the sorry
ones, not me/' And went straight across the street to
Cootehill Distilleries, Kylemore's chief competitor. But
flute! At Cootehill they told him they already had a man
in New York. "Well" said Coffey. "Well . . . what about
Canada, then?" No, they did not have anyone there.
And yes, they were willing to let him have a crack at
selling their whiskey in Canada. Seeing he was paying his
own way out there, why not? A small retainer? Yes,
they might manage that.
Right, then! Before he sailed, he lined up two side lines.
A North American agency for Coomb-Na-Baun Knit-
wear, which the Dublin office gave him over the Cork
office's objections. And a little side line as American rep-
resentative for Dromore Tweeds of Carrick-on-Shannon,
which was part-owned by an old school pal of his. And
so, six months ago, after a round of good-bys forever, he,
Veronica and Paulie sailed out to Montreal, taking the
great gamble. His own boss at last.
Except that now, six months later, he was his own boss
no longer. And so, at a quarter to twelve, the Nickelodeon
read from cover to cover, he smiled at the receptionist,
still hoping. She came over. "I'm afraid Mr. Beauchemin
will be tied up until after lunch. Do you think you could
come back at two-thirty?"
Coffey thought of Mr. Beauchemin trussed-up on his
office carpet. He said yes, he thought he could.
Down he went in the express elevator, across the
lobby and out into the street. The noon crowd scurried
along icy pavements from central heat to central heat.
Six office girls, arms linked, high voices half* lost in the
wind, edged past him in a tottering chorus line. Bundled
against the wind, no telling what they looked like. He
followed them for a while, playing an old game of his.
That very instant a genie had told him they were all
houris awaiting his pleasure, but only one must he choose
and he must not look on any of their faces. He must
choose from the rear view. All right, then, he decided
on the tall one in the middle. His choice made, he
followed them to the intersection of Peel and Ste. Cath-
erine Streets, and as they paused for the traffic light he
came level and inspected their faces. She had a long neb.
He should have picked the little one on the outside
right. Anyway, none of them was half as pretty as his own
wife. He turned away.
Businessmen clutching hat brims butted impatiently
past his aimless, strolling figure. A taxi, its tire chains
rattling in the brown-sugar slush, pulled up beside him
to disgorge six Rotarians who ran up the steps of a hotel,
their snow-filthy rubbers tracking the wine-colored car-
pet. A bundle of newspapers, hurled from the tailgate
of a truck by a leather-jacketed leprechaun, fell by his
feet. He paused, read the headline on top, as a news
vendor rushed from a kiosk to retrieve.
WIFE, LOVER SLAY CRIPPLE MATE
Which reminded him. He had not phoned Veronica.
Slow stroll across Dominion Square, everyone hurry-
ing save he, every face fixed in a grimace by the painful
wind, eyes narrowed, mouths pursed, driven by this
cruel climate to an abnormal, head-bent helter-skelter.
He passed a statue of Robert Burns, reflecting that this
snow-drifted square was an odd place for that kiltie to
wind up. And that reminded him of failures: Burns's
brew was called for a lot more often on this continent
than usquebaugh. "Usquebaugh is the name of it, Mr.
Montrose; yes, we Irish invented it, quite different from
rye or Scotch. I have a booklet here, Irish coffee recipe
. . ." Promotion, they called it. You had to promote be-
fore you could sell. But, to those thicks back in Ireland,
promotion was not work.
Yours of the 6th to hand. Before we approve these ex-
penses, which seem very high to us, our directors would
like to know how many suppliers you can guarantee. So
far, in our opinion, you have not . . .
That was in the beginning of October. He should have
seen the writing on the wall. But instead, he started to
use his own savings to keep the ship afloat. He had to.
Those thicks refused to pay the half of his expenses. And
then, a month later, three letters with Irish postmarks
arrived in the same week, as though, behind his back,
the whole of Ireland had ganged up on him:
I regret to inform you that at the last meeting of our
board of directors it was decided tJiat in view of current
dollar restrictions and the heavy "promotion' expenses you
have incurred, we feel unable at this time to continue our
arrangement with ijou. Therefore, we are no longer pre-
pared to pay your office rent or to continue your retainer
after this month. . . .
Four orders from department stores and single orders
from six other shops which have not been repeated do not
justify the money you are charging us. And advertising at
the rates you quote is quite out of the question. Coomb-
Na-Baun Knitwear has always enjoyed a modest sale on
your side of the water without any special promotion, and
so we feel at this time that it is wiser all around for us to
cancel our arrangement with you. . . .
Hartigan says we would be better off sending an out-
and-out traveler to cities like Boston, New York and To-
ronto to show samples and take orders as the British tailor-
ing firms do. High-power American methods do not go
over in Carrick-on-Shannon, so if you will kindly let us
have back the swatches. . . .
He burned those letters. He economized by giving up
their flat and moving to this cheap dump of a duplex.
But he did not tell Veronica. For two weeks he sat in
his rented office, searching the want ads in the news-
papers, dodging out from time to time for half-hearted
inquiries about jobs. But the trouble was what his trouble
always was. He had not finished his B.A., the Army years
were wasted years, the jobs at Kylemore and Coomb-Na-
Baun had not qualified him for any others. In six months
he would be forty. He thought of Father Cogley 's warn-
The pulpit was on the right of the school chapel.
Ginger Coffey, aged fifteen, sat under it while Father
Cogley, a Redemptorist Missioner, preached the retreat.
There's always one boy Father Cogley said always
one boy who doesn't want to settle down like the rest of
us. He's different, he thinks. He wants to go out into the
great wide world and find adventures. He's different, you
see. Aye, well, Lucifer thought he was different. He did.
Now, this boy who thinks he's different, he's the lad
who never wants to finish his studies. Ireland isn't good
enough for him, it's got to be England or America or Rio-
dee-Janeero or some place like that. So, what does he do?
He burns his books and off he runs. And what happens?
Well, I'll tell you. Nine times out of ten that fellow winds
up as a pidt-and-shovel laborer or at best a twopenny
pen-pusher in some hell on earth, some place of sun
and rot or snow and ice that no sensible man would be
seen dead in. And why? Because that class of boy is
unable to accept his God-given limitations, because that
class of boy has no love of God in him, because that class
of boy is an ordinary, lazy lump and his talk of finding
adventures is only wanting an excuse to get away and
commit mortal sins Father Cogley looked down: he
looked into the eyes of Ginger Coffey, who had been to
confess to him only half an hour ago. And let me tell
that boy one thing Father Cogley said If you burn
your books, you burn your boats. And if you burn your
boats, you'll sink. You'll sink in this world and you'll
sink in the next . . .
And woe betide you then . . .
It was all missionary malarkey, of course. But although
he had forgotten all else that was ever preached to him,
Coffey had not forgotten that sermon. He had thought
of it often; had thought of it that third week of December
when Veronica found out. She wept. She said she had
seen this coming for a long time. (It was the sort of
thing she would say. ) She said if he did not land a job by
Christmas, they must go home the first ship in the New
Year. She said they had six hundred dollars put aside
for their passages home, and he had promised her they
would go back if it did not work. It had not worked. And
so, look at us she said we know no one here. No one
would lift a finger if we froze to solid ice in the streets.
You promised me. Let's get out before we have to sing
for our passage. At home, there's people know you. You
can always find something. Now, there's a ship leaving
Halifax on the tenth of January. I'm reserving our
But it's not even Christmas yet, he said. What's the
hurry? Ill find something. Chin up!
Christmas came and went, but the snow was their only
present. They saw the New Year in, with Veronica start-
ing to pack as soon as the radio played "Auld Lang Syne,"
while he, alone in the dun-colored duplex living room,
decided that on January second, as soon as the offices
were open again, he would humble himself and go down
to the Unemployment Commission. Because he would
have to find some job. Because, you see, there was one
thing he still hadn't told her. He no longer had the money
for the tickets. In fact, all that was left was never mind
it was a frightener to think how little.
And today was D-day. The wind was stronger now.
The snow had stopped and his ears began to hurt as if
someone had boxed them. He looked into a restaurant,
saw people lined three-deep beside the hostess rope, the
waitresses stacking dishes, placing paper place mats and
fresh glasses of water before anyone who dared to daw-
dle: no, there was no shelter in Childs. But he must phone
Veronica start preparing her. So in he went.
"That you, Kitten?"
"Did you get the tickets, Ginger?"
"Well, no, not yet, dear. That's what I'm phoning you
about. You see, dear, right out of a clear blue sky I met a
man on my way downtown who told me about a job. So
I'm going for an interview."
"You wouldn't know him, dear. The point is, I have an
interview arranged for half past two this afternoon."
"Today's the last day to pick up those tickets," she said.
"If you don't get them they'll sell them to someone else."
"I know, dear. The point is, I'm going to wait until
after IVe had this interview. I should be finished by
three. That'leaves lashings of time to pick up the tickets, if
nothing comes of it."
"But what job is this?"
Flute! He reached in his waistcoat and pulled out a slip
of paper. It was the second slip which Donnelly had
given him but he had started reading it out before he
realized his mistake. "Wanted" he read. "Aggressive pub-
licity man for professional fund-raising group, province-
wide cancer research campaign. Apply H. E. Kahn, Room
200, Doxley Building, Sherbrooke Street."
"But that doesn't sound permanent at all?" she said.
"Well, never mind, dear. It would tide us over."
"If we're going to stay," she said. "YouVe got to get
something permanent, Ginger. At your age, you can't
afford to be chopping and changing any more. You know
"Yes, dear. We we'll talk about it later. Good-b "
"Wait! Ginger, listen to me. If this job is only a few
weeks' stopgap, don't you take it. Get those tickets."
"Yes, dear. Bye-bye, now."
He replaced the receiver and stepped out of the booth.
There must be a law of averages in life as well as in
cards. And surely if anyone's luck was due for a change,
A Childs hostess beckoned with her sheaf of menus but
he thought of the fourteen lonely dollars left in his pocket.
He went outside but it was too cold to hang about the
square. Then where? He looked across the snowy park;
three old dears were going up the steps of the Basilica.
Warm it was in God's house. How long was it since he'd
been in a church? Not since he'd left home, not that
he'd missed it, either. Maybe . . . ? Well, it wouldn't hurt
him, now would it?
The interior darkness was familiar. He listened to the
murmur of water pipes, located a bench near a radiator
and moved in. Catholic churches were all the same. The
pulpit on the right (shades of Father Cogley!) and on
the left the Altar to Our Lady (Distaff Doings) with a
bank of votive candles underneath. He remembered how,
as a boy during the boredom of mass, he used to count
the candles, sixpence a big one, threepence a little one
and try to estimate the profit to the priests.
Coffey's father, a solicitor, had been buried in the
brown habit of a Dominican Tertiary. Enough said. His
elder brother Tom was a missionary priest in Africa. And
yet neither Coffey nor Veronica were what Dublin people
called pi-odious. Far from it. In fact one of his secret rea-
sons for wanting to get away to the New World was that,
in Ireland, church attendance was not a matter of choice.
Bloody well go, or else, tinker, tailor, soldier, sailor, rich
man, poor man, you were made to suffer in a worldly
sense. Here, he was free. . . .
And yet . . . Staring now at the altar, he remembered
the missioner's warning. Supposing it were not all non-
sense? Suppose his brother Tom, worrying about the
Moslems stealing his African converts, was right after
all? Just suppose. Suppose all the prayers, the penances,
the promises were true? Suppose the poor in spirit would
inherit the kingdom of heaven? And not he.
For he was not poor in spirit. He was just poor. Well,
what about him? If he did not believe all this stuff about
an afterlife then what did he believe? What was his aim
in life? Well . . . well, he supposed it was to be his own
master, to provide for Vera and Paulie, to ... to what?
Damned if he could put it into words. To make some-
thing of himself, he supposed. Well, was that enough?
And would he? Maybe he was one of those people who
get the best of neither world, one of those people the
Lord had no time for, neither fish nor fowl, great sinner
nor saint? And maybe because he had never been poor in
spirit, had never been one for pleading and penances,
maybe God had lain in wait for him all these years, dol-
ing him out a little bad luck here, a little hope there,
dampening his dreams, letting him drift further from the
time and tide that led on to fortune until now, at the
halfway mark in his life, he was stranded in this land of
ice and snow? If there was a God above, was that what
God wanted? To make him poor in spirit? To make him
call pax, to make him give up, to herd him back with the
other sheep in the fold?
He looked at the tabernacle. His large ruddy face set
in a scowl as though someone had struck it. His lips shut
tight under his ginger mustache. I never could abide a
bully, he said to the tabernacle. Listen to me, now. I
came in here to maybe say a prayer and 111 be the first to
admit I had a hell of a nerve on me, seeing the way iVe
ignored you these long years. But now I cannot pray,
because to pray to you, if you're punishing me, would be
downright cowardly. If it's cowards you want in heaven,
then good luck to you. You're welcome.
He picked up his little green hat and left the church.
At two-thirty Mona Prentiss, receptionist, went into
the office of Georges Paul-Emile Beauchemin, Public
Relations Director of Canada Nickel, and handed him
Coffey's application form. Yes, the man was outside and
had been waiting since this morning. Would Mr. Beau-
chemin care to see him?
Mr. Beauchemin had time to kill. He had just finished
buying someone a very good lunch in exchange for two
hockey tickets. In half an hour, at the midweek meeting,
he planned to hand the tickets over to Mr. Mansard. Mr.
Mansard was a vice-president and a hockey fan. So Mr,
Beauchemin was in a good mood. He said to show the
Miss Prentiss came back up the corridor. "Will you fol-
low me please, sir?" And Coffey followed, suddenly wish-
ing he'd worn his blue suit, although it was shiny in the
seat, watching her seat melon buttocks rubbing under
gray flannel skirt, high heels' tic-tac, cashmere sweater,
blond curls. A pleasant rear view, yes, but he did not en-
joy it. Sick apprehension filled him because, well, what
were his qualifications for this job? What indeed?
"This is Mr. Coffey, sir," she said, shutting the door on
them. And hooray! The face that fits. Because, by some
miracle, Coffey had met Mr. Beauchemin, had met him
last November at a party in the Press Club where the
Coffeys had been Gerry Grosvenor's guests.
"Hello there," Coffey said, jovially advancing with his
large hand outstretched, the ends of his mustache lifting
in a smile. And Beauchemin took the proffered hand, his
mind running back, trying to place this guy. He could
not recall him at all. A limey type and, like most limey
types, sort of queer. Look at this one with his tiny green
hat, short bulky car coat and suede boots. A man that age
should know better than to dress like a college boy,
Beauchemin thought. He looked at Coffey 's red face and
large military mustache. Georges Paul-Emile Beauche-
min had not served. That mustache did not win him. Oh
"I don't suppose you remember me?" Coffey said.
"Ginger Coffey. Was with Cootehill Distilleries here. Met
you at a Press Club do once with Gerry Grosvenor, the
"Oh yes, eh?" Beauchemin said vaguely. "Old Gerry,
eh? You're ah you're Irish, eh?"
"Yes "Coffey said.
"Good old Paddy's Day, eh?"
"Lots of Irish out here, you know. Last year I took my
little girl out to see the Paddy's Day parade on Sher-
brooke Street. Lot of fun, eh?"
"Yes, isn't it?" Coffey said.
"So you're not with ah " Beauchemin glanced at
the application form "not with Distillery any more?"
"Well, no. We had a change of top brass at home, and
they wanted me to come back. But I like it here, we were
more or less settled, kiddy in school and so on. Hard
changing schools in mid-term, so I decided to chance my
luck and stay on."
"Sure," Beauchemin said. "Cigarette?" Perhaps this
guy had been sent by someone from upstairs. It was wise
to check. "How did you know we were looking for an edi-
torial assistant, eh?"
Coffey looked at his little green hat. "Well, it was the
ah the Unemployment Commission people. They
Reassured (for if it had been a brass recommendation
he would have had to send a memo), Beauchemin leaned
back, openly picked up the application form. A nobody.
Seventeen from fifty-six is thirty-nine. Let him out on age.
"Well, that's too bad," he said. "Because what did
you say your first name was again?"
"Ginger. Had it since I was a boy. Red hair, you see."
"Well, Gin-ger, I'm afraid this job's not for you. We want
"Yes, some kid who's maybe worked a couple of years
on a suburban weekly, someone we can train, bring along,
promote him if he works out."
"I see," Coffey said. He sat for a moment, eying his
hat. Fool! Stupid blundering fool! Why didn't you wait to
see if he remembered you? He doesn't know you from a
hole in the wall, coming in with your hand outl Oh God!
Get up, say thank you and go away.
But he could not. In his mind, a ship's siren blew, all
visitors ashore. He and Veronica and Paulie, tears in
their eyes, stood on the steerage deck waving good-by to
this promised land. This was no time for pride. Try? Ask?
"Well," Coffey said, "as a matter of fact, my experience
has all been on the other side of the water. I imagine
it's quite different here. Maybe maybe I'd need to start
lower on the scale? Learn the ropes as I go along?"
Beauchemin looked at the man's ruddy face, the em-
barrassed eyes. Worked for a distillery, did he? Maybe
they let him go because he was too sold on the product?
"Frankly, Gin-ger," he said, "you wouldn't fit into the
pension plan. You know it's a union-management deal.
The older a man comes in, the more expensive for the
others in the plan. You know how these things work."
"But I wouldn't mind if you left me out of the pension
"But but we New Canadians," Coffey began. "I
mean, we can't all be boys of twenty, can we? We have to
start somewhere? I mean" he said, dropping his eyes
to his hat once more "I'll put it to you straight. I'd ap-
preciate it if you'd make an exception."
"Sorry," Beauchemin said. He stood up. "I tell you
what, Gin-ger. You leave your name and address with
Mona, outside. If we think of anything we'll get in touch
with yon, okay? But don't pass up any other offers, mean-
time. All right? Glad to have met you again. Give my re-
gards to Gerry, will you? And good luck."
Beauchemin shook hands and watched Coffey put on
his silly little hat. Saw him walk to the door, then turn,
and raise his right hand in a quick jerky movement of
farewell, a kind of joke salute. A vet, Beauchemin
thought. I was right. They do okay, free hospitals, pen-
sions, mortgages, educations; the hell with those guys.
"Be seeing you/' he said. "And shut the door, will you?"
In Room 200 of the Doxley Building, Sherbrooke
Street, an aggressive publicity man for professional fund-
raising group, province-wide cancer research campaign,
put his little green hat between his feet and stared at
H. E. Kahn, to whom application must be made.
H. E. Kahn wore a blue suit with narrow lapels which
curved up to the points of his tight, white, tab-collared
shirt. His black tie knot was the size of a grape and the
tie itself was narrow as a ruler. The mouth above it was
also narrow; narrow the needle nose, the eyes which
now inspected the form on which, for the third time that
day, the applicant had set down the misleading facts of a
life. H. E. Kahn was a swift reader. He turned the form
over, read the other side, his young, convict-shaven head
bent, showing a small monkish tonsure at the crown. Yet
for all that hint of baldness, Coffey estimated that H. E.
Kahn could not be more than thirty years old. Which was
older than the three other young men he had noticed at
work in the outer office, older than the two pretty stenog-
raphers who sat facing each other, transcribing from dic-
tating belts behind Coffey 's back, and older certainly
than the other applicant who had filled up a form as
Coffey did and now waited his turn outside.
H. E. Kahn finished his reading and leaned back in his
swivel chair until the tonsure on his head touched the
wall. "You speak French?"
"No, I'm afraid not."
"French might have helped."
"I suppose so."
"Not essential, mind you, but I see you're not a local
man. Not a Canadian, are you?"
"No, I'm Irish/'
"Irish, eh? That so? I ve been in Ireland. Shannon Air-
port. Got a wonderful camera deal there coming back
from Paris last summer/*
H. E. Kahn's chair jacknifed to desk level, his hand
crumpling the application form. Balled, the form accu-
rately described a parabola over Coffey 's left shoulder,
holed into a secretary's wastepaper basket. "Sorry, Mr.
Gee. You wouldn't suit us/'
Coffey stood up. "Well, thanks for seeing me, anyway."
"My pleasure. Hey, Marge, hey, send that other guy in,
will you? And Jack? JACK? Shoot me over that special
names list. Nice meeting you, Mr. Coffey. See you."
"See you," Coffey repeated mechanically. In hell, he
But afterwards, out in the street, he wondered if that
had been fair. After all, Kahn had been polite enough.
Was it because Kahn seemed to be a Jew? No, he hoped
that wasn't it. Coffey did not agree with many of his
countrymen in their attitude to Jews. None of his best
friends were Jews, but that was no reason to dislike Jews,
was it? Besides, he had not particularly liked Beauche-
min either and that wasn't because Beauchemin was
French-Canadian. Of course not. So, what was it, apart
from the fact that neither man had wanted to employ
him? They were younger than he. That was the first
thing he had thought about both of them. And Donnelly
too, the man in the Unemployment Commission. Younger.
All day he had been going hat in hand to younger men.
And yet Suffering J, I'm not old, Coffey thought.
Thirty-nine isn't old!
Walking, he turned the corner of Ste. Catherine Street
and saw again this morning's tabloid headline: WIFE,
LOVER SLAY CRIPPLE MATE. He remembered the
unbought steamship tickets. Flutel Better stay downtown
At a quarter to five he arrived in the street where he
lived. Dawdling still, walking a little off the track of other
pedestrians, watching his abominable snowfeet mark the
white, new-fallen snow, waiting until five when Gerry
Grosvenor would come because, with Gerry on hand, the
dreaded scene about the tickets would be staved off for
another hour or so. But, as he reached the lane running
alongside his place, he saw, with relief, that Gerry's sporty
little car was here and had been here for some time be-
cause there were no tracks on the snow where it had
driven in. Which was peculiar.
Gerry Grosvenor, a political cartoonist on a big maga-
zine called Canada's Own, was, Coffey supposed, their
only real pal in Canada. Someone in Dublin who had
known Gerry during the war had given Ginger a letter
of introduction to Gerry and from the first go-off Gerry
had taken to them like first cousins and favorites. Which
was all well and good, but awkward because, when
Coffey moved from his other flat and the cash started
running out, he had to duck Gerry Grosvenor. For dam-
mit, Gerry was a social sort and popular, and the last
thing in the world Coffey wanted was for Gerry to start
looking down on him. So, as he unlocked the door of the
duplex, he was shocked to hear Gerry's voice say: "There
now, there now. Cheer up. It won't be so bad as you
What was that? Veronica was sniffling, that was what.
What was she sniffling about? Had she found out about
the tickets? How? Lord blessus and saveus. Bloody fe-
males! Sobbing out her private affairs to some outsider,
had she no dignity, the woman? He hesitated, dreading
his entrance, wanting to hide.
There was one safe place. Paulie was not at home, and
Veronica would never expect to find him there. He
slipped into Paulie's tiny nest, cluttered as all her other
rooms had been, and sat on the bed for a breather.
Three-quarter-profiled in their tin-finish frames,
Paulie's favorite singers, film heroes and guitar players
smiled on Daddy in autographed contempt. He avoided
their glossy stares and picked up Bunkie, his daughter's
oldest plaything, a wooden-headed pajama-case doll.
Other talismen, less favored, lined her dressing table: a
copy of Little Women, a worn beaded purse which had
once been used by Coffey's mother at a Viceregal Ball, a
glass snowflake paperweight, a pencil case Coffey had
made for her in a woodworking shop. The pencil case,
now chipped and broken, was filled with bobby pins and
head combs. Paulie was growing up.
He looked again at the doll's wooden head, its painted
features half-obliterated by childish kisses, childish tears.
Ah, Paulie . . . what happened to us? Once, I wasn't
able to stir without you running after me, oops-a-daisy,
come to Daddy, whirling you up in the air, my Goldi-
locks and me the Big Bear. The games we played, the
childish shrieks of fun . . . But now you never look at
me. What happened? If only you were a boy?
But they had never had a boy. And whose fault was
that? Not his, although she sometimes tried to make it
seem so. You see, she got pregnant the month he married
her. At the time, he had just been commissioned and
everyone expected Ireland to go into the war. So they
waited and waited. About the time Paulie was born, the
thicks in the government announced that Ireland would
stay neutral. And Veronica blew up when Coffey wanted
to desert and move to the British side. He wanted to see
some action but she said his duty was with his family.
Family! He wanted adventure, not diapers. So he sulked
for a month or so and she got the priest after him for prac-
ticing birtK control. He said he was damned if any priest
would dictate whether or not he'd have another child.
The priest then threatened to refuse Veronica the sacra-
ments and if there was one thing Coffey would not stand
for, it was being threatened. They would not have an-
other child, he said. Not yet. Not until he was good and
ready. When would that be, she asked. Soon? Yes, soon.
He promised her. Soon.
But they never had one. The years had passed: he no
longer knew if she even wanted one. Ah, children . . .
children . . . His large hand caressed Bunkie's head. He
put the doll on the coverlet and awkwardly tidied the
bed. He was acting like a child himself, come to think of
it. Hiding like this. He went out, listened in the corridor,
but heard no further weeps. So he risked it into the living
"Hello there, Ginger," Gerry Grosvenor said, getting
up. He was tall, and so neat he reminded Coffey of a
dummy in a men's furnishings window. Yet for all his
height and neatness, for all his thirty years, his Gillette-
blue chin and black-haired hands, adolescence, like an
incurable disease, had never quite left him.
"Hello, Gerry lad," Coffey said jovially. "Hello there,
Yes, she had been sniffling.
"So you never picked up the tickets?" she said.
"What was that, Kitten?"
"I phoned at quarter to five," she said. "You hadn't
picked them up then, and they were closing in a few min-
utes. Does that mean you got a job?"
Coffey did not answer her at once. Instead, he winked
at Gerry. Sure, women are always starting a barney over
nothing, eh, Gerry lad? But Grosvenor did not return the
wink; left Coffey in the field, alone. "No," Coffey said,
turning back to her. "I did not get a job."
"Then why didn't you buy those tickets ?"
"Look, we'll talk about that later, Kitten? Now, what
about a beer? Are there any beers in this place, by any
"In the kitchen," she said.
"Gerry, will you have another?" Coffey asked.
But Grosvenor shook his head. His round brown stare,
which reminded Coffey of a heifer watching you cross
a field, was now fixed and glassy. He was ploothered,
"No, I have to run," Grosvenor said. "I have another
appointment. Now, don't worry, Vera and Ginger. I'm go-
ing to see what I can do, okay?"
"Listen. Have a short one for the road, won't you?"
Coffey said, knowing that, the minute Gerry left, the roof
would fall in.
"No, I'm late now," Gerry said. "'By, Ginger. 'By,
Veronica did not move out of her seat, did not even
say good-by. Which mortified Coffey, for, no matter, she
might at least be polite to visitors. Angry, Coffey followed
Gerry out into the hall. "I'm sorry I was late home, old
man," he said. "I hope Veronica hasn't been bothering
you with our troubles."
Grosvenor bent his head to drape a long woolen scarf
about his neck, then looked at Coffey with round, brown
cow-eyes. "But I'm your friend," he said. "I mean to say,
I didn't know you were having trouble. I mean, your
troubles are my troubles, right? That's the essence of any
relationship, isn't it?"
"I suppose it is," Coffey agreed. Canadians were terri-
bly slabbery, he'd noticed. Even the men were always
telling you how much they liked you. Shocking way to
carry on, especially when you'd be daft to heed one word
of it. Still, there was an excuse for old Gerry. He was
drunk. "There we are," Coffey said, helping Gerry on
with his overcoat. "Steady as she goes."
"I mean, I thought you wanted to go home," Gros-
venor said. "But now that you don't well, I'll see what
I can dig up. Right?"
"Right," Coffey said, guiding him to the front door.
"And thanks very much, Gerry."
"Listen," Grosvenor said, stopping, fixing Coffey once
more in his drunken stare. "Going to look into a possibil-
ity right now. Call you tonight, okay?"
"Fair enough. I'll be at home."
" 'Kay," Grosvenor said. He stumbled on the step, went
down the path to the street in a shambling, head-heavy
walk. It occurred to Coffey that Gerry was not fit to drive.
"Gerry?" he called because if he drove Gerry home
it would put off Judgment Day a while longer . . .
" 'By," Grosvenor shouted back. "See you, Ginger."
Ah well. Slowly, Coffey shut the front door. Slowly he
made his way back into the living room. She had not
moved from her chair. She sat, her dark hair framing her
pallor, her long fingers laced over one knee, the leg drawn
up, her large, dark eyes looking up at him, implacable
"Well," he said, sitting on the arm of the sofa. "Pal
Gerry certainly has a skinful in him this afternoon,
wouldn't you say?"
She did not answer. He smiled at her, still trying to
jolly her. "Do you know, I could have sworn for a mo-
ment he was going to kiss me, out there in the hall," he
"Me," he said, trying to smile at her.
"Why didn't you get those tickets, Ginger?"
"Now . . ." he said. "Look, dear," he said. ''Listen, do
you know where I went today?"
"First thing this morning," he said. "I went down to
the Unemployment Commission. You know, the labor ex-
change? And do you know, right off they gave me two
jobs to look into. They were very decent. So, I spent the
whole day at interviews and and listen, Vera, I ad-
mit I didn't get anything. But it was just a start and to-
morrow they're going to have another try at placing
"Tomorrow you're going to get those tickets," she said.
"Ah now, look here, Kitten. Sure you don't want to go
home to Ireland any more than I do. Now, why not wait
"No. We've waited too long already."
"But just another week wouldn't kill us?"
"Ginger," she said. "I'm doing this for your sake, if you
only knew it. We're getting those tickets tomorrow, and
that's all's about it."
"For my sake?" he said. "Am I the one who wants to go
"We're buying those tickets," she said. "That's final!"
"It is not final," he said, suddenly losing his temper.
"We can't buy the tickets, so shut up about it, will you?"
"How the hell do you think I've carried on this last
while?" he said. "It costs a fortune, this country."
"You spent the money? You-spent-the-moneyP"
"I couldn't help it, Kitten. There were expenses at
the office things you never knew "
"One," she said, "two "
"All kinds of bills"
"Ah, now, cut it out, Kitten. I'm sorry. I'm not a good
manager, I never was. I'm sorry."
"I said I was sorry, Kitten. God knows it's not just my
fault. Those thicks at home, not paying my expenses. I
skimped on lunches, even."
"Eight-nine-ten!" She took a long breath. "I am not go-
ing to lose my temper," she recited. "I-am-not-going-to-
"Good, that's the girl. Now, cheer up, sure, listen, I'll
get a job soon and it'll be all for the best. You'll see."
"Go away," she said. "What on earth good does say-
ing you're sorry do?"
"If you just knew what you've done," she said, begin-
ning to cry. "If you had just the faintest idea. You've
torn it, this time. You really have."
"Ah, now, Kitten "
"Go away. Eat your supper."
"Aren't you eating, dear?'*
Ah, well. Women were peculiar cusses. They had nerv-
ous troubles men knew nothing about. Ah, she had been
acting very peculiar this last while, cold and fed up and
so on. That was nervous trouble, he was sure. If you read
medical books, it was all explained in there. So, leave her
be. She'd come around.
He went into the kitchen and found sausages and pota-
toes warm in the oven. A little mental arithmetic indi-
cated three for him, three for her, and two for Paulie.
He took his portion and settled down at the kitchen ta-
ble. The sink tap dripped onto stacked pots and pans. Up-
stairs, someone knocked on a radiator and a moment later
the basement furnace whirred and coughed into life.
Lordsaveus, what a dump this was, was it any wonder
Vera hated it? Coffey was hungry. He ate his sausages
and helped himself to more gravy and potatoes. Fork
halfway to his mouth, he noticed her standing in the door,
her face pale, her eyes bright. Still in a rage. He put the
forkful in his mouth and winked at her.
"How much do we have left?" she said.
He smiled, gesturing that his mouth was full.
"Answer me. The truth, mind!"
Eighty and fourteen well, make it an even "About
a hundred dollars," he said.
"Oh my God!" She went away.
He finished the spuds and wiped his plate with a bit of
bread. What did Vera know about money anyway? An
only child, brought up by a doting mother, pretty, with
plenty of beaux, until she met and married him. And,
even so, in all those years of marriage, the Army years,
the years at Kylemore and in Cork, had she ever bloody
starved? Had she? Give him credit for something. And
remember, Vera, you married me for better or for worse.
This is the worse. Ah, but supposing she won't put up
with the worse?
Now that was nonsense. She loved him in her way
and despite her temper. And she had Paulie. He could
hear the two of them talking now in the living room.
Paulie, home from her dance practice, had gone straight
in to see Vera. And, as usual, not even hello for Daddy.
They were like sisters, those two, always gossiping away
about womany wee things he knew nothing about.
There was the phone. He got up to answer, because
Vera hated the phone.
"Ginger?" It was Gerry Grosvenor. "Listen, how would
you react to a hundred and ten a week?"
"Get away with you!"
"No, seriously, there's a job going as deskman on the
Tribune. And the Managing Editor happens to be a
friend of mine/'
"Deskman?" Coffey said. "But Gerry lad, what's that?
What does a deskman do? Make desks?"
"Copy editor/' Grosvenor said. "Easy. This is on the
international desk, all wire copy, very clean. It's just writ-
ing heads and putting in punctuation. Nothing to it."
"But I have no experience on a newspaper. I never
wrote a headline in my life."
"Never mind that. Would you take the job?"
"Would a duck swim!"
"Okay. Wait. I'll call you back."
Coffey replaced the receiver and looked down the long
railroad corridor hallway. Total silence from the living
room, which meant she and Paulie had been listening.
So he went in. "Hello, Apple," he said to Paulie. "Had a
good day in school?"
"Was that Gerry?" Veronica asked in an angry voice.
"Yes, dear. He says he can get me a job. Hundred and
ten dollars a week to start."
"On the Tribune. It's an editing job. I pointed out that
I'd no experience, but he said not to worry."
"I'd worry," Veronica said, "if I were you. This isn't
acting the glorified office boy, or playing poker and drink-
ing pints in barracks."
He gave her a look intended to turn her into Lot's wife
there on the sofa. Imagine saying that in front of Paulie!
"Go and have your supper, Apple," he told Paulie. He
waited as, unwillingly, Paulie trailed out of the room.
"Now, why did you say that in front of the child, Vera?"
"She might as well know."
"What sort of a selfish brute she has for a father."
Suffering J! No sense talking, was there? He went out
and, while he was in the bathroom, the phone rang again.
He hurried up the corridor.
"Yes," she said to the phone. "Yes wait, I want to
explain something. I mean apropos of this afternoon.
Ginger doesn't have our passage money home. He spent
it. ... Yes. ... So that leaves me no choice, does it?
. . . Yes . . . yes, here's Ginger. I'll let you tell him
"Ginger?" Gerry's voice said. "It's all set. IVe given
you a good build-up and old MacGregor wants to see you
in his office at three tomorrow afternoon."
"Thanks a million, Gerry. But what did you tell him?"
"I told him you'd worked on a Dublin newspaper for
two years and said, after that, you'd been a press officer
in the Army, and then that you were a public relations
man for Irish whiskey out here. It sounded good, believe
"But, Holy God!" Coffey said. "It's not true. I never
worked on a newspaper."
At the other end of the line there was a Remembrance
Day hush. Then Grosvenor said: "Ginger, the point is,
do you want this job or don't you?"
"Of course I do, but "
"But nothing. Everybody bullshits out here. Every em-
ployer expects it. The point is to get in. After that, doing
the job is up to you."
"But maybe I can't do it," Coffey said.
"Beggars can't be choosers," said Vera's voice. She
reached out, took the receiver from him and said:
"Thanks, Gerry, you're an angel. Thanks very much. . . .
Yes. . . . Yes, I know. . . . Good night." She replaced
the receiver, turned away, walked down the hall and
went into their bedroom. He followed her but she shut the
door. When he tried the door, it was locked,
"Vera? I want to talk to you?"
"Go away," she said. She sounded as if she were crying
"Listen/' he said. "Don't you want any supper?"
"No. And go away, will you? Please! Sleep on the
living-room sofa. I want to be alone."
Ah, well. What was the use? He went back to the kitchen
where Paulie was at table, reading some trashy maga-
zine. He got out Vera's sausages and offered Paulie one
but she shook her head and, still reading, carried her
dishes to the sink.
"Stay and have a chat with me, Apple?"
"I have to study, Daddy."
"Just a minute, miss," he said, surprised at the anger in
his voice. He saw she was surprised too. It wasn't like him
to be cross. "Sit down," he said. "I want to ask you some-
"Apple, do you want to go back to Ireland?"
"Jeepers, no. I like it here."
"Well, the kids are more grown-up here. And school's
more oh, it's just nicer, that's all. Besides, I said good-
by to everybody at home. I'm going to look silly going
back now. I wish we weren't going back, Daddy."
"Well, we're not," he said. "It's much better here.
You're right. I wish your mother could see that, though."
"But Mummy's never wanted to go home."
"Is that so?" he said. "That's not the way I hear it."
"She likes it here, Daddy. Honestly she does. She's just
afraid you won't find a job, that's all."
"I'll get a job," he said. "No need to panic."
"Sure. Of course," Paulie said. "Can I go now, Daddy?"
"All right, Pet." You'd think he was a leper or some-
thing, she was that anxious to run away from him. Chil-
dren . . . children . . .
He ate the remaining three sausages and lit a smoke.
If Veronica really wanted to stay over here, why the
blazes couldn't she say so? No bloody faith in him, that
was it. Suffering J!
He went into the living room with the Montreal Star but
he was too upset to read it. He went back into the kitchen
and brought out two quarts of beer. Last of the last. He
poured himself a glass, lay down on the sofa and switched
the radio on, trying to salvage something out of this mis-
erable bloody evening. He searched for music, for music
hath charms and had better have, because, looking back
on the day, he had a savage bloody breast on him, all
right. Hat in hand to younger men, wife sniveling to
strangers, asked to lie his way into some job he'd be
caught out in, and what else? Oh, a savage bloody breast!
And all there was to drink was this gassy Canuck beer
that gave him heartburn. And to sleep on, this bloody
sofa that was too short. No faith. If your nearest and
dearest had no faith in you, then how could a man give
his all? Where would he be unless he still could hope?
Without hope, he'd be done for. Aye, a savage bloody
"Yes, Apple," he said, sitting up in hope.
"Daddy, I can't hear to study with all that noise.
Could you turn the radio off?"
Not even able to enjoy a bit of music. Bloody females!
He lay back, entering a world where no earthly women
were. In that world soft houris moved, small women of
a Japanese submissiveness, administering large doubles
and sweet embraces in rooms filled with comfortable
club sofas and beds. In that world, men of thirty-nine
were Elder Brothers, prized over any Greek stripling. In
that world, a man no longer spent his life running uphill,
his hope in his mouth, his shins kicked by people with no
faith in him. In that world, all men had reached the top
of the hill; there were no dull jobs, no humiliating inter-
views, no turndowns; no man was saddled with girning
wives and ungrateful daughters, there were unlimited
funds to spend, the food was plentiful and nonfattening,
there were no Father Cogleys handing out warnings, no
newspapers worrying you with atom bombs, no sneerers
and mockers waiting to see you fail, no rents to pay, no
clothes to buy, no bank managers. In that world you
could travel into beautiful jungles with four Indian com-
panions, climb a dozen distant mountain peaks, sail rafts
in endless tropic seas. You were free. By flicking your
fingers in a secret sign, you could move backwards or
forwards in time and space, spending a day in any age
that took your fancy, but as a leader of that age, the hap-
piest man of that day. In that free world . . .
In that world, both quarts finished, Ginger Coffey fell
Two He came to consciousness, aware of a telephone
ringing. Sunlight struck down on him from the window in
a white column filled with tiny, floating feathers of dust.
He turned his eyes from that light and, as in a frame from
a film, saw his wife pass by in the corridor. The ringing
He had lain all night in his clothes. Mother of God, she
would think he'd been drunk. Up with him now! He un-
dressed, dropping clothes in a heap, found blankets and
sheet in the cupboard, made up the sofa as a bed and
hopped back in his underpants, closing his eyes as she
passed back to the bedroom. Yes, that was a little victory.
Relaxed, he lay for a while, listening to the voice of a
French-Canadian radio announcer upstairs, listening to
the thump and shuffle of Madame Beaulicu's feet on the
ceiling, remembering that last night he had been sup-
posed to tell Madame whether or not they would keep this
apartment for another month. Oh, well. Tell her tonight,
when he knew about the new job. The job. That started
him thinking of the day ahead, remembering that Veron-
ica now knew the worst about the tickets, remembering
that she would want to know how he had spent the money
and what they were going to do. Ah, dear God!
He exhaled noisily, feathering up the ends of his mus-
tache. As uual, you must balance the good with the bad.
And if there was no good at the moment, then think of
the important things. Health and strength and a wife
and daughter. And here you are in a foreign land listening
to French on the radio and you a man who has cut loose
from all the old codology and cant at home, a man who
struck out alone in search of fame and fortune. So, you're
not dead yet. Now, raise your big carcass out of this ex-
cuse for a bed. Lift it. One, two, three, and up! And up he
got, feeling a touch of heartburn after last night's beer, a
twinge in his knee as he went heavily down the dark cor-
ridor to knock on her door. "Veronica?"
He went in. Nobody there. She had already made up
the bed. He put on his dressing gown and slippers and
wandered back up the corridor to the bathroom. When he
came out, he saw the pair of them in the kitchen. Paulie,
her head in pincurls, eternal book propped up against
the milk jug as she finished her Corn Flakes. That child
didn't eat enough and Veronica didn't seem to care. But
when he looked at Veronica, he forgot to be angry. She
was in her dressing gown, her dark hair down about her
shoulders. She smiled at him. "Did you sleep all right?"
"Like a top," he said, kissing the end of her nose.
"I'm sorry about last night," she said. "I had a terrible
headache. It made me grumpy."
He looked to see that Paulie was not watching, then
ran his hand down his wife's back, giving her buttocks a
little slap. "Sure, that's all right," he said. "Was that the
phone I heard earlier?"
"Yes, Gerry rang. He wants us to have lunch with him
today before you go for your interview. His treat, he
"Isn't he the decent skin, though?" Coffey said. "You
told him yes, I hope."
"Of course. Now, eat your breakfast/'
There must be at least two eggs in the helping of scram-
bled eggs she ladled out to him. He peppered and salted
it, warmed by the sunlight, by this matutinal kindness;
sure that it was a good omen somehow. He thought of
J. F. Coffey, Journalist. He liked the sound of that. Or
better, Coffey, the Editor; Coffey of the Tribune . . .
Yes, it was a grand morning, right enough. Maybe today
his ship would come in.
"Was Madame Beaulieu around yet?" he asked.
"Well, we'll tell her about the place tomorrow," he
said. "Although, if I get this job, I don't fancy staying on
in this hole."
"I've been thinking," Veronica said. "If we're really go-
ing to stay I'm going to get a job as well. Paulie's out un-
til after three, five days a week. There's no need for me
to sit at home, is there?"
No need for her to get a job either, was there? He could
take care of his own. Ah, this was old stuff, her wanting
a job, wanting to slave away in some shop. Ah, for God's
sake! But he held his whist: let her dream, the woman.
He finished his eggs, ate four pieces of toast and sat idle
over his third cup of tea while Paulie rushed off to school
and Veronica washed the breakfast dishes. And after,
following Veronica down the corridor in the morning
sunlight, everything quiet, everyone else off to work, he
stood in the bedroom door watching her as she took off
her dressing gown and stood in her pink slip. His Dark
"Lay out my old blue suit, will you?" he said. "I'd bet-
ter wear it today. They're shocking conservative in their
clothes over here."
Obediently she leaned into the closet to get the suit
and at that moment the sight of a fold of her slip caught
between the cleft of her buttocks aroused him to a slug-
gish, familiar desire. Married as long as they were, desire
was not something a man could waste. He dropped his
own dressing gown and pulled her down on the bed. He
kissed her, fumbled her slip off her, then remembered.
He looked at her, and, obedient, she went to the bath-
room. He shut his eyes, carefully nursing his desire until
she came back. Then, forgetting her years of complaints
about his roughness, his selfishness, he took her, tumbling
her naked beneath him. Animal, his breathing harsh in
the morning silence, he labored towards that moment of
release and fulfillment. And afterwards, fell down beside
her, pulling her on top of him, crushing her face against
the reddish, graying hair on his chest. He exhaled in con-
tentment; dozed off to sleep.
Ten minutes later, he awoke to find her sitting up in
bed beside him, smoking a cigarette, her cheek reddened
by contact with his unshaven chin. He was in good form,
this morning: her body, familiar as his own, still could
rouse him to another round. He reached up, taking hold
of her breasts, smiling at her, his mustache ends curling
upwards in anticipation
"No, Ginger." She drew back, put her cigarette in his
mouth, slipped off the bed and went into the bathroom.
That was women for you, they never enjoyed anything.
He heard her begin to run a bath.
"Ginger, promise you'll tell me the truth?"
"Who do you love more? Paulie or me?"
"Love both of you, Kitten."
"But if anything happened to Paulie that would be
worse for you than if anything happened to me, wouldn't
"Nothing's going to happen to anyone," he said. "Oh,
Kitten, I feel it in my bones. Today is going to be the day
that counts. There's a law of averages in life. You just
have to wait for your chance to come up/'
"But, supposing you had to decide in a matter of life
or death? I mean between Paulie and me. You know, one
of those things about save the mother or save the child.
Which would you save?"
"Will you, for the love of Mike, shut up and get on with
your bath?" he said contentedly.
"No, answer me. Which one would you save?"
"Well, I suppose if a ship was sinking, I'd save Paulie.
I mean, she'd have all her life before her. Kids of her
own and so forth."
"And what makes you think I can't have any more
kids?" she said. "Good grief, it's not my fault we hadn't
any more kids. And I still can have them, otherwise why
did you send me off to the bathroom this morning? What
do you think I am a grandmother? Most men let
me tell you most men still find me very attractive, do
"Listen, Kitten," he said. "I didn't mean that. I was
only saying that Paulie has her whole life before her.
"Maybe you haven't," she said. The bath water began
to run again. "But I have," she said. "God, you're selfish!"
After her bath, she cheered up. She put on her best
black suit for lunch because they both knew Gerry would
take them to some posh place. Yes, he was the soul of
generosity, Gerry, always lending them his car for a run
up north, inviting them out to parties and for lunch. Not
that Ginger hadn't held their end up, when he could.
Matter of fact although Vera didn't know it that
was where some of the return passage money went. Al-
though, even in these last days when Coffey had to cut
his entertaining to a duck egg for lack of spondulicks,
Gerry never let that make one bit of difference. None of
your eyes right and cross the street for him when a pal
was down on his luck. Ah, no. Dead on, Gerry was. A
heart of oak.
Still, for all his decency, Gerry could be a strain at
times. Talk? A phonograph. And, being a political car-
toonist, he fancied himself as in the know. He was always
up in Ottawa, and to hear him talk about the place it was
the hub of the bloody universe. He referred to the two
head men in the Canadian Government as Lester and
Louie. He had once had tea with Madame Pandit, and
when he talked politics he let slip names like Joe Enlee or
J. F. Dee or Rab or Mac or Matsy Dong or Mick OTan as
if he was related to all of them.
But today, for a change, Gerry talked about Ireland.
He said he was glad they were not going back there. He
said until he had met the Coffeys he had considered Irish
people bigoted, untrustworthy and conventional. Al-
though he had some very good Irish friends, he said.
But he had been relieved to find that the Coffeys were not
nationalists or religious. Although he admired people who
believed in something; didn't they? Of course, none of
his Catholic friends ever went to church, he said. Which
was a relief to him. Yes, the Irish were wonderful people,
imaginative, romantic and creative. Wonderful people.
Coffey winked at Veronica.
Then Gerry talked about the interview that was com-
ing up: "Confidence," Gerry said. "That's the important
thing in an interview. Now, in Canada, we don't go in
for the hard sell. On the contrary" and his face loos-
ened in that self-satisfied smile peculiar to him when dis-
cussing his country "I like to think that Canadians
combine the best facets of British reticence with a touch
of good old American down-to-earthness. And,, that's the
tone I took when I sold you to MacGregor. I made him
feel I was doing him a favor."
This time, it was Veronica who winked. Ah, God
knows, Coffey thought, when you come right down to it,
she's a darling. Not that Gerry would notice that, he was
so wrapped up in himself. But she was a darling.
After the lunch with Gerry, the Coffeys walked over to
the Tribune building and just the fact of having her with
him made Coffey less nervous about the interview to
come. Into the lobby they went and she stopped to
straighten his tie. 'Til wait for you here," she said.
"But there's no need, Kitten. I mean, even when you
have an appointment in this country, they often keep you
hanging around for hours on end."
"Doesn't matter," she said. "I'll be nervous no matter
where I wait. Oh, Ginger. What if they find out you've no
"Steady the Buffs," he said, smiling at her. But the sick-
ness came suddenly upon him. No faith, she had. No
faith. "Don't worry," he said. "Why, I'll bet you a "
"I know," she said. "A brand-new frock. I could run
a dress shop if I collected on half your bets. Now go on,
and good luck."
So, into the elevator he went, sick with nerves, praying
that . . .
"Fourth floor. Editorial," the elevator man said. Funny,
whenever you were in no hurry to get somewhere, eleva-
tors, buses, taxis all went like the wind. Coffey stepped
out, hearing the elevator door shut behind him, feeling
shabby and ill at ease in his old blue suit, pausing to stare
at his image in the brass plaque in the corridor. The
plaque said CITY ROOM and in it he seemed all squeegeed
up, head tiny, eyes aslant like a Chinaman. Exactly how
he felt. But you'll do, he told himself. Keep your chin up
and somecjay you can buy yourself a brass plaque like
this to remind yourself of the day your luck changed
and you started in a whole new career. Right, then! He
On the fourth floor of the Tribune, the night's business
was just beginning. Under fluorescent lights, lit all year
round, a few reporters studied the afternoon papers. A
police radio blared routine calls in a corner and in the
nearby teletype room a jammed machine tintinnabulated
incessantly, calling for attention. In the center slot of a
large horseshoe desk a fat man in a woolen cardigan
sliced open the afternoon's crop of wire service photo-
graphs. He looked up as Coffey approached. "Yes?"
"May I speak to Mr. MacGregor, please?"
"Boy! Take this man to Mr. Mac."
An indolent adolescent shoved a rubber cylinder down
a communications tube, then hooked a beckoning finger.
Across the City Room he led and down a corridor to a
partitioned-off office on the opened door of which a small
brass plaque announced MANAGING EDITOR. The boy
pointed to the plaque, then went away, wordless. Inside,
Coffey saw three young men in shirt sleeves looking over
the shoulders of an old man who was seated at a large,
scarred desk. He was a thin old man with a pale, bony
face, a pumping blue vein in his forehead and eyebrows
thick and crumbling as cigar ash. His voice, a Low
Church Scottish rumble, could be heard clearly in the
corridor. For once, Coffey was not comforted by the fact
that he faced an older man.
"Dorrothy Dix? Where's Dorrothy Dix?"
"Here, Mr. Mac."
"O.K. Now, where's the funnies?"
"Here, Mr. Mac"
"Make sure that Blondie is up top and then Mutt and
Jeff and then Moon Mullins. Not Rex Morrgan, M.D. Some
bleddy rascal in the composing room changed the order
in the Early last night/*
"Right, Mr. Mac."
"O.K. Now, away with ye."
The three young men clutched up page proofs and gal-
leys and rushed out, jostling Coffey in the doorway. For
the love of J, how was he going to tell this sulphur-breath-
ing Scottish Beelzebub that he was an experienced sub-
editor? Grosvenor must be daft.
The old man spiked a scrap of paper, like Calvin down-
ing sin. His eye picked out Coffey in the doorway.
"Come in. State your business."
"My my name is Coffey. I believe Gerry Grosvenor
spoke to you about me?"
"Grrosvenor? Och, aye, the cartoonist. Come in, come
in, sit you down. Where's my notes? Aye, here we are.
Deskman, aren't you?"
"What paper did you wurrk for in the Old Country?"
Confidence, Grosvenor had said. The time and tide
that leads on to fortune. One good lie and But as
Coffey opened his mouth he was taken with a sort of
aphasia. The old man waited, becoming suspicious. "I
ah I worked on the Irish Times, sir."
"Times, eh? Good paper."
"Yes. Yes, isn't it?"
"Grrosvenor said you were in the Army?"
"Officer weren't you? Serve overseas?"
"I I was in the Irish Army, sir. We were neutral dur-
ing the war."
"I I was a press officer in the Irish Army," Coffey
added, trjdng to correct the hostility in that "Indeed?"
"Press officer," the old man said. "Trying to keep the
facts from the public, that is the services* job. However, I
need a man who has some knowledge of wurrld events.
Most Canadians have none. What about you?"
"I ah I try to keep up, sir."
"Grrosvenor tells me you were a publicity man for a
"No, sir. Irish."
"No wonder you're out of a job, then. Did you wurrk on
the foreign desk at the Times?"
"Yes, sir. Ah part-time."
"What do you mean, part-time?"
"Well, ah summer holidays and so on. Filling in."
The old man nodded and consulted his notes again.
Coffey fingered his mustache. A good touch that sum-
mer holidays. He was pleased with himself for thinking of
"When was it you wurrked for the Times?"
"Oh after I got out of the Army. About ah six
"How long did you wurrk there?"
"About" what had Grosvenor said? "about eight-
"I see." The old man picked up one of the phones on
his desk. "Give me Fanshaw," he said. "Ted? When you
were in Dublin, did you ever hear tell of a subbie on the
Times by the name of Coffey? . . . Aye, about five years
ago. . . . Hold on." He covered the mouthpiece and
turned to Coffey. "What was the name of the foreign
Coffey sat, his eyes on his little green hat.
He raised his eyes and read a title on the bogkshelf be-
hind MacGregor. Holy Bible.
"Right, Ted," the old man told the telephone. "Disna'
matter/' He put the phone down and glowered at Coffey
under the crumbling ash of his eyebrows. "If you'd been
a Scot," he said. "You'd have come in here wi' references
in your hand. But you carry nothing besides your hat and
a lot of cheek. Och, aye. You may fool the likes of Gerry
Grrosvenor, but there isn't an Irishman born that I'd trust
to pull the wuul o'er my eyes!"
Coffey, his face hot, stood up and put his hat on.
"Where are you going?" MacGregor said.
"I'm sorry I took up your ti "
"Sit down! Are you hard up for a job? Tell me the
"O.K. Can you spell? Spell me parallel."
"Correct. Are you married?"
"One daughter, sir."
"Hmm. . . . Have you a vice?"
"Are you deef? I mean, have you a weakness? Booze
or horses or wimmin? Own up now, for I'll find out, any-
"O.K. You say ye've been a P.R. That may be. But
what a P.R. knows about the wurrkings of a newspaper
could be written twice over on the back of a tomtit's arse
and still leave room for the Lorrd's Prayer. So you'd best
start at the bottom. Do you agree?"
Coffey took a deep breath. He was too old to start at
"Well? I^)on't stand there gawking/'
"Well, sir, it depends. I'm not a boy of twenty."
"I'm proposing to start you off in the proofroom/' the
old man said. "So that you can acquaint yourself with the
rudiments of our style. That's the best training there is/'
"A a p-p-proofreader, did you say, sir?"
"I did. My readers are not unionized, thank the Lord.
And I happen to be shorthanded there at the moment. If
you wurrk well, I might try you out on the floor as a re-
porter. You might even wind up as a deskman if you play
your cards right. What do you say?"
"Well I I'd have to think about that, sir. How much
how much would that pay?"
"Fifty dollars a week, which is more than you're wurrth.
Start at six tonight. Go and think it over now, but let me
know no later than half -past four, if you want the job."
"Thank you "
"Clarence?" Mr. MacGregor shouted. "Where's Clar-
A fat man rushed in, notebook at the ready.
"What's the last two paras of Norrman Vincent Peale
doing in the overset, Clarence?"
"Don't know, Mr. Mac."
"Bleddy well find out, then."
The fat man rushed out. Mr. MacGregor spiked an-
other galley. "All right, Coffey. Good day to you,"
Coffey went away. Fifty dollars a week, reading gal-
leys. A galley slave ... He passed along a corridor
lined with rolls of newsprint, wandered across the wide
desert of the city room and out past the brass plaque to
the elevator. The red light flashed above the elevator
door. Going down. Down, down, all his high hopes
failed; with Veronica waiting below, Veronica who
wanted to know that the bad days were over, that they
could move to a better place . . .
"Ground floor/' the elevator man said. "Ground floor.
There she was under the big clock, the nervous begin-
nings of a smile on her face. Poor Kitten, it was not fair
to her, not fair at all, she'd be in such a state
Maybe, through Gerry Grosvenor, maybe he might just
manage? Maybe. And so, he went towards her, his mind
made up. Don't tell her now. Smile instead, be the jolly
Ginger she used to love. He kissed her, squeezed her and
said: "Steady as she goes."
"Did you get it, Ginger?"
"I did, indeed."
"Oh, thank God."
"Now, now," he said. "What's that? Sniffles? Come on,
come on, it's laughing you should be. Listen let's
let's go and have a cup of tea. How would you like to sail
into the Ritz, just like the old days?"
"Oh, Ginger, I'm so glad for you."
"Glad for me? And aren't you glad for yourself, Kitten?
Ah, it's going to be super. Just super. Come on now. We'll
take a taxi."
"But we can't afford it, Ginger."
"Come on, come on," lie said, out in the street now, sig-
naling a cab. "Let me be the judge of that. In with you.
Driver? The Ritz-Carlton Hotel, on the double!"
He leaned back in the taxi, put his arm around her
shoulders and hugged her, watching the city rush past:
pretending. Making her feel as she did in the first weeks
they landed, two people in a new and exciting country,
him with three good agencies to make his fortune and all
the old fogeys at home confounded. Sweeping her off to
the Ritz for tea, happy as sandboys, the pair of them.
"But, how did the interview go?" she said. "What did
he ask you?"
"Why, .first rate, first rate," said he. "The old fellow
took to me like a long-lost relative. He's going to show me
over the different stages of the job, let me work awhile
in each department until I get my hand in."
"Isn't that marvelous?" she said. "We must phone
Gerry and thank him."
"Plenty of time. Tea first."
"Ginger, how much are they going to pay you?"
"Hundred and ten, but that's only a start. There's no
telling how far I can go in a job like this. You may be
looking at an important citizen, Kitten. J. F. Coffey, the
"But Ginger, do you think you can do it?"
"Didn't Gerry say I could?"
"Gerry has perfect faith in me," Coffey said, "and you
have none. Isn't that a nice thing?"
"No, I didn't mean that," she said, contrite. "It's just
that I hope nothing goes wrong this time."
"What would go wrong, would you tell me? Now, come
on. Here we are."
He helped her out of the taxi under the brass carriage
lanterns of the hotel, already lit in the gray winter after-
noon. Up the steps they went, past the black wood panels
of the entrance hall, and into the heat of the lobby. He
took her coat and removed his own, dodging off to the
cloakroom. He had to get a hold of Gerry. For one thing
Gerry might be able to tell him how long he'd have to
wait before they made him a reporter. And, for another,
Gerry would have to help him because this was Gerry's
fault after all. They would just have to keep mum, Gerry
and he, and try to get through the weeks until he was
made a reporter. Wasn't that the best plan? Well, if it
wasn't, it was the only plan he could think of at the mo-
So when he checked the coats, he hurried. down the
back stairs to the row of public telephones in the base-
ment. He called Canada's Own.
"How did it go, Ginger?"
"Disaster. Listen, Gerry, he caught me red-handed.
Now listen I haven't had the heart to tell Veronica the
truth. And listen he's offered me a job and I have until
half-past four to make up my mind. It's in the proofroom,
but that's only temporary. He's promised to promote me
to reporter. Now, if I take it, maybe I can last out a few
weeks without Vera being any the wiser. Until they make
me a reporter, you see?"
"But did MacGregor give you a definite date for this
promotion?" Gerry asked.
"No, he didn't. I think it won't be long though."
"How do you know? I wouldn't put it past that old
bastard to con you into this, just so's he can get himself
a nonunion proofreader on the cheap."
"But dammit, what's the use in talking, I'll have to take
it," Coffey said. "I've told Vera I have a job."
"It's up to you," Gerry said. "But if you start small,
you'll wind up small."
"Yes, but beggars can't be choosers " Coffey began.
Then he stopped. In the little mirror in front of the tele-
phone, he saw Veronica's face. He turned around.
"Let me speak to Gerry," she said.
At once, Coffey hung up.
"Why did you do that? You're too late, anyway. I
He took her arm. "Now, listen listen, Kitten, it's not
as bad as you think. Let's let's go up and have a cup of
tea. I want to talk to you."
Carefully he led her up the stairs. They went into the
Palm Court, a room that reminded Coffey more of a draw-
ing room in some big house than a place where you could
buy a cup u of tea. He guided her to a sofa in a corner and
at once called a waiter, ordering tea and crumpets from
the waiter, taking as long as he could, postponing the
inevitable. But at last the waiter went away. "Now listen,
Kitten/' Coffey said. "It's a sort of apprenticeship, that's
She was sniffling. He passed her his handkerchief, then
looked anxiously around at the other people in the room.
"Vera, please?" he said. "People are watching."
"Go and sit by yourself, then."
"Vera, I didn't mean that. Now, cheer up."
"Well, this thing is only temporary, just for a week or
"Does Gerry think it's temporary?"
"Of course he does."
"Word of honor, Ginger?"
"Word of honor. It's just a training period "
"Proofreading, isn't that what it is?" she said. "How
much are they going to pay you during this 'training'
"Ah seventy dollars a week. We can manage on
"How much? Do you want me to phone Mr. Mac-
Gregor and check?"
Nervously, Coffey touched the parting in his mustache.
"All right," he said. "Fifty is what it is. But that's only for
a week or so."
"Oh? How many weeks? Ginger, for once in your life,
why can't you tell me the truth?"
"Well . . ." he said. "Well, anyway, this is Grosvenor's
fault, not mine. Bloody daft caper, asking me to tell this
old codger I had experience. Sure he trapped me in no
time, made me look like a bloody idjit. God, wait till I
see Mr. Gerry Grosvenor. Him and his bloody schemes."
"It's Gerry's fault," she said. "Not your fault, jof course.
Oh, it's never your fault, is it, Ginger?"
"Well, it wasn't my idea to pretend I was something
"A proofreader,'' she said. "That's what you are. That's
all you are. How are the three of us going to live on fifty
dollars a week?"
"But he promised to make me a reporter. And then an
editor, he said. Now, that's true, Kitten. Here have a
"You can't afford a crumpet," she said, weeping.
"Ah now, for the love of Mike, will you give over that
boohooing, Vera? What sort of way is that to carry on?"
"Listen to me," she said. "Li-listen to me. I'm not
going to put up with this any more, do you hear? God
knows," she said, her tears now coming uncontrollably,
"I've tried. You'll never know how hard I've tried. I was
even ready to go home, even though I hated to go home.
But I thought it was the only way to save us. That wasn't
easy. No, it wasn't easy, believe you me."
"I know, Kitten. I know."
"And then then last night you walked in and ad-
mitted that you'd been lying to me for weeks. Letting me
pack and write Mother and make plans and everything.
After you'd promised on your word of honor you'd never
touch a penny of that passage money."
"I know," he said. "I should have told you. I'm sorry,
"You're sorry. That makes it all right, I suppose? What
good does saying you're 'sorry' do? Is that supposed to
make me stay with you?"
"What do you mean, stay with me?"
"You heard me," she said. "I'm going to get away be-
fore it's too late."
"Is that so?" he said, with all the sarcasm he could
manage ijj his sudden fright. "And what about Paulie?
Did you ever think of Paulie?"
"Oh, who's talking! Don't you know the only thing
that's kept us together, this past while, is Paulie?"
She doesn't mean that, he thought. Ah no, she doesn't
mean that. He looked at her.
"Not that you care about Paulie," she said. "Not that
you care about any of us except yourself. If you did
care, we'd never be in this mess."
"Now, is that fair, Vera? Just because I happen to be
between jobs "
"Ginger, Ginger," she said, shaking her head, "aren't
you always between jobs?"
"What do you mean?"
"Isn't the job you're in always a burden to you, isn't it
always no good, according to you? And isn't there al-
ways a crock of gold waiting for you in the next job
you're going to get? Ginger, will you never learn any-
thing? Will you never face the facts?"
"That they let you go in nearly every job you've had.
Why do you think Mr. Pierce sent you down to the ad-
vertising department? Why do you think Mr. Cleery in
the advertising let you go? I'll tell you why. Because you're
a glorified secretary, that's all you are, that's all you can
ever hope to be. But you can't see that, you had to tell
them how to run their business, you that knew nothing
"Glorified secretary, my foot," he said. "Those old
codgers were living in the dark ages," he said. "Fifty
years behind the times."
"Yes," she said. "Everybody's out of step except our
Ginger. Same thing when we were in Cork, wasn't it? And
then you were coming over here to Canada, setting your-
self up to do a job you never did in your life, a job you
had no experience in. How could you sell whiskey or
tweeds or anything, you that had no experience?"
"If it wasn't for those thicks at home "
"Oh yes. Blame them. Blame anybody except yourself.
And today walking in, bold as you please, asking to be
made an editor. You that knows nothing about it/*
"That was Gerry's idea."
"But you went along with it, didn't you?" she said.
"Oh yes, it's Gerry's fault. ... Do you know the thing I
can't stick about you? It's never your fault. Never. You've
never had the guts to admit you were wrong."
"That's nonsense," he said.
"Is it? Then is it my fault you spent the ticket money
home? Is it, Ginger?"
"Ah, what's the sense in raking all that up again, Vera?
"Former history! It happened yesterday!"
"Shh" he said, looking around the room.
"Yes, shush," she said. "People are watching. And you
care more about people than you do about me. Playing
the big fellow, spending our passage money."
He looked at his hands. He joined his fingers in the
childhood game. A game between him and all harm.
Here's the church . . .
"Well, from now on, don't bother to tell me anything,"
she said. "Not even lies. Because I don't want to hear.
I'm sick of lies and dreams and schemes that founder as
soon as you put your hand to them. I'm sick of your self-
ishness and your alibis. You can go to hell for all I care."
And here's the steeple. Open the gates . . .
"Tomorrow morning," she said, "I'm going to look for a
job of my own. And when I get it, I'm moving out."
"What about Paulie?"
"I'll take Paulie," she said. "Then you won't have to
worry about anybody except yourself. Which will suit you
down to the ground/'
. . . and let in the people. And here is the minister
coming upstairs . . .
"In the meantime," she said, "I'd advise you to take
this proofreading job. Come down off your high horse,
Ginger. It's just about what you're fit for. A proofreader/'
And here is the minister saying his prayers.
He separated his hands, looked at her at last. "For
better or for worse," he said. "For richer or for poorer.
Ah," he said bitterly. "You could sing that, if you had an
air to it."
"You'd better go," she said. "You have to let Mac-
Gregor know at half past four, don't you?"
"There's plenty of time. It's not even four. Besides "
"Oh, God's teeth, Jim, why are you so dense? Don't
you understand anything?"
She never called him Jim except when things were
desperate. She wanted rid of him, this minute, that was
what she wanted. All right. All right. He stood up and
took the bill. "I'll have to wait for change," he told her.
She took a ten-dollar bill out of her bag. Where did she
get that, he wondered. "Go on," she said. "I'll pay the
But he could not move. Suffering J, they weren't going
to leave things like this, were they? Ah, Vera
"Are you leaving, or must I?" she said.
He tried to grin. "Just looking for the cloakroom tickets,
dear. I have yours in my pocket somewhere."
He fumbled for a while.
"Breast pocket," she said. f
"Oh, yes. Silly. I always put it there and then forget.
Vera listen to me "
"No," she said. "And stop standing there like a dog
waiting for a pat on the head. You're not getting any pat.
Not any more. Now, go away."
He saw her hands tremble on the catch of her purse.
Listen, listen, listen, he cried silently, for God's sake don't
let this happen. But he had said listen so many times, in
so many rows, for so many years. And she had said listen,
as often. Listen to me, they cried to each other. Listen!
Because neither listened any longer. She stared at him.
Her face was pale, her eyes were fixed and bright, and,
now that it haid been said, he saw that all her irritations,
all the fits of temper he had discounted, all that was hate.
She hated him.
Still, as he went away across the room, he turned back
to her once more. Tried to smile, hoping that somehow
she . . . sure that she . . . Wouldn't she signal, call
But she did not. She sat watching him, willing him to
go. Go away, Doggy.
So he went.
Three It was twenty past four. For several minutes
he had been standing in the lobby of the Tribune building
wondering whether he should go upstairs. After all, Mac-
Gregor had said it would only be a short while until he was
made a reporter. And you wouldn't heed Gerry, would
you? Why should Gerry know whether MacGregor was
tricking him or not?
But he had heeded her. That was why he was here. Ah,
sure that was a lot of malarkey, that stuff about them let-
ting him go in those other jobs he had. A lot of malarkey
too about him being selfish and putting the blame on
other people all nonsense sure, what did she know,
the woman? But it was not nonsense that she said she
wanted to leave him. Not nonsense that he had seen a
hatred in her look. She would get over it. Sure, she would.
She had just been letting off, as women do, with the first
hurtful thing that came into her head, hadn't she? She
didn't hate him; not Vera. Not his Dark Rosaleen?
He was troubled as he had rarely been. It was hard to
find something to be cheerful about in what she had said
and the way she had looked at him. And so, he had to
think of something else. He thought of J. F. Coffey, Jour-
nalist. There was some good in that thought. Say what
you like, he had a foot in the door there. Maybe Mac-
Gregor would promote him in a week or so? Probably
would. All right, then. Take the job. Show her she's
At twenty-five past four he went in, took the elevator
up and once again presented himself at the open door-
way of the Managing Editor's office. "Excuse me, sir?"
"I ah I would like to take the job, sir."
Mr. MacGregor pulled out a sheet of paper. "Right,"
he said. "Full name?"
"James Francis CoflFey."
MacGregor wrote it down. "Hours, six to one, five
nights a week. Except when you take the late trick, until
two. Saturdays off, and one rotating day a week. If sick,
report to me pairsonally by phone before three in the
"One more thing, Coffey. I have fifty gurrls wurrking in
the mailroom, one floor down, Dinna interfere with them,
"Now go to the composing room and ask for a man
called Hickey. He'll give you a stylebook. Study it before
you start wurrk tonight."
Galley slave. Suffering J, that was apt. CoflFey went
back down the corridor and asked directions of a man in
shirt sleeves. He followed the directions and after several
turnings entered a large room, loud with noise. In even
rows, like children in some strange classroom, the linotyp-
ers threaded their little tines of words. Men with wooden
mallets hammered leads into place; others, wearing long
blue aprons and green eyeshades, plucked strips of lead
from a table, fitting them in, tossing the rejects backwards
to crash into large tin hellboxes. A foreman in stiff white
collar and black knitted tie moved with ecclesiastic tread
up the aisle. As he drew level with Coffey, he leaned over,
hand to his ear, in smiling dumbshow inquiry as to the
"Mr. Hickey?" Coffey shouted, over the machine roar.
The foreman showed comprehension by a nod and led
Coffey across the room to a small, cleared area, sur-
rounded by rows of linotype machines. There, in Dicken-
sian concentration, sat three old men, each facing a
pigeonhole desk, each scanning a galley of proof. At once
their strange apartheid, combined with the extreme shab-
biness of their clothing, reminded Coffey of MacGregor's
remark. These were outcasts in a union sea. As he drew
near he saw that each desk was double, with seats for two
"Hickey?" he shouted.
Without looking up from his work one old man el-
bowed the next, who rapped on his neighbor's desk with
a pencil, who, hearing the rapping, turned slowly in his
stool. His eyes, huge and shifting under lenses thick as an
aquarium window, floated up to find the interrupter.
Then he stood, buttoning about him a darned, many-
stained cardigan of navy blue wool.
The red face nodded, the shifting eyes indicated that
Ginger must follow. The old man's large, gently sliding
posteriors moved between rows of linotypes, leading
Coffey into the comparative quiet of the locker room.
There Mr. Hickey paused, his distorted eyes searching
for enemies, his raw, red hands knitting together a home-
"Yes?" he said. "New man?"
"How did you know?" Coffey said, surprised.
"Gets so you can tell," Mr. Hickey said. "Hitler send
"Hitler. The boss."
"Oh! You mean Mr. MacGregor. Yes, he told me to ask
you for a stylebook."
Mr. Hickey wheezed like an ancient organ. "Mac-
Gregor," he said. "Never call him by that name, son.
Hitler's his name. Because he's "
And then came a slow, enjoyed recital noun, adjec-
tive, verb of fourteen well-rehearsed obscenities. When
he had finished, Mr. Hickey reached into his darned
cardigan to produce a small red booklet. "Stylebook/'
he said. "Now, go on down the street, one block to the
left of here. In the tavern on the corner you'll find
the night men. Look for a fellow with a crutch. That's
Fox, head of the shift. It's pay night, so they all like to
come in together. Better come in with them, okay?"
"Okay," Coffey said. "And thanks very much."
"Thanks?" Mr. Hickey seemed surprised. "For what,
fella? This job, you don't have much to be thankful for.
God bless, fella. Be seeing you."
"Going down," the elevator man shouted. "Going down."
He went down.
The tavern described by Mr. Hickey was unnamed.
Above its door was an electric sign: Verres Sterilises
Sterilized Glasses, a sign which no one read but which
conveyed to the passing eye that here was a place to
drink, a place which shut late or never, a place unlikely
to be well-frequented. This last was its deception, Coffey
found. Forgotten, faded, off the main streets, in a down-
town limbo where property owners allowed buildings to
live out a feeble charade of occupation until the glorious
day when all would be expropriated in a city slum clear-
ance drive, the tavern, instead of dying, had burgeoned
in a new and steady prosperity. As Coffey pushed open
its doors he was met by a beer stench and a blast of
shouted talk. Two waiters in long white aprons, each
balancing a tray containing a dozen full glasses of draught
beer, whirled in and out among the scarred wooden tables,
answering thirsty signals. Slowly Coffey moved up the
room, searching for the man with a crutch. The customers
put him in mind of old Wild West films: they wore fur
caps, peaked caps, tuques. They wore checked shirts,
lumber jackets, windbreakers. They wore logging boots,
cattle boots, flying boots. They talked in roars, but they
numbered also their solitaries. These sat alone at smaller
tables, staring at the full and empty bottles in front of
them as though studying the moves in some intricate
No one heeded Coffey as he moved on. At the far end
of the room a huge jukebox, filled with moving colors and
shifting lights, brooded in silence amid the roar of voices.
Near it, disfigured with initials, an empty phone booth
symbol of the wives and worries the tavern's customers
bought beer to forget. Coffey paused by the phone. What
if she were sitting in the duplex this minute, already
sorry for what she'd said? She could be. Yes, she might
He went into the booth and shut the door on the noise.
He dialed, and Paulie answered.
"Is that you, Bruno?" she said.
"Who's Bruno, Pet?"
"Oh, it's you, Daddy."
"Is your mother home yet?"
"She was in but she went out again."
"She didn't say, Daddy."
"And she left you all alone, Pet?"
"Oh, that's all right, Daddy. I'm going to supper at a
girl friend's house and her mother's giving me a lift home
in their car."
"I must go now, Daddy. I'm late already."
"Wait a minute, Pet. Did Mummy tell you IVe got a
"Well, I have. A an editing job on a newspaper. Isn't
"Well well, tell your mother I phoned her, will you,
"And listen, Apple don't be too late getting home,
But Paulie had already hung up. Who the blazes was
selfish he or a woman who would go out of the house
and leave her little girl all alone? Suffering J! Ah well
let's have a beer. Where's this man I'm supposed to meet?
Fox with a crutch.
He came out of the phone booth and stood solitary
among the shouting drinkers searching for the cripple's
sign. On the top of a radiator by the far wall, he saw an
aluminum cane with a rubber-covered elbow grip.
Nearby, sticking out into the aisle, a built-up boot. Its
owner was a tall, vaguely professorial man with fairish
hair and a gray stubbled chin. Coffey went over.
The cripple ignored him. "First million," he said to his
companions. "That's the caste mark. As long as they made
it long enough ago for people to forget what it was made
in, they become one of Canada's first families."
One of the men at the table, a bald, sweating person in
a navy blue shirt and a vermilion tie, looked up, saw
Coffey. "Fu-Fox," he said. "Wu-wanted."
"Oh?" The cripple sprawled backwards in his chair,
letting his gaze travel slowly from Coffey's brown suede
boots to the tiny Tyrolean hat. "New man, eh?"
"Yes. How did you know?"
"How did I know? Hear that, Harry?"
Both Fox and the stammerer were seized with a laugh-
ing fit. Fox cleared glasses and bottles from in front of
him in a rash sweep of his arm, laying his laughing face
on the beer-wet table top. He was, Coffey realized, half-
"Sit down," said a third reader, pulling out a chair for
Coffey. He was very old, strangely dressed in a duck-
billed fawn cap, fawn windbreaker and high, elastic-
sided boots. A feathery white goatee grew precariously
on his caved-in jaws, and as he reached forward to shake
hands, Coffey was put in mind of the recruiting poster's
Uncle Sam. "My name's Billy Davis," he said. "And this
here is Kenny."
Kenny was little more than a boy. His face, tortured by
eczema, looked up at Coffey in a lost, posed smile. His
right hand clutched the neck of a beer bottle. He sat
primly on the edge of his chair.
"Drink up, Paddy," Fox said, signaling a waiter.
A waiter came and Fox paid for four glasses of draught
beer which he at once lined up in front of Coffey. His
companion, Harry, seemed to consider this a further occa-
sion for laughter. "Now, Paddy," Fox said. "Let's see you
sink these. Go ahead."
"Thanks very much," Coffey said. "That's very decent
of you. My treat next, I hope?"
"Drink!" Fox shouted. "One, two, three, four. Go
Lord knows, Coffey liked a wet as well as the next man.
But there was something lunatic about this. He began on
the first beer. Bald Harry's upper lip dripped sweat. The
boy widened his fixed smile a fraction, in encouragement.
The old man nodded his goatlike chin. Glass empty, Cof-
fey put it down and reached for a second.
"Good man/* Fox said. "Away you go. One swallow."
It took two swallows.
"Number three, now," Fox said.
But as he raised the third glass to his lips, Coffey
paused. Wasn't this daft? What was he doing, drinking
himself stocious for a clatter of strangers?
"What's up?" Fox said.
"Nothing. Only that it's against nature, guzzling like
this. What's the rush?"
Fox and Harry exchanged glances. "A good question,
Paddy," Fox said. "And it answers mine. Booze is not
your problem, right?"
They must be joking. It must be some sort of joke, this
"Never mind him," the girlish boy said. "Say, that's a
dandy overcoat you have. Sharp." He touched Coffey 's
"Wu-women?" Harry said. "Du-do you think that's his
"Why must I have a problem?" Coffey said. "What are
you talking about?"
"Every proofreader has," Fox said. "All ye who enter
here. Look at Kenny." He leaned over as he spoke and
put his arm around the boy's shoulders. "You know what
Kenny's problem is, I suppose?"
"Shut up," the boy said. "Lousy gimp."
"Hostility to the father figure," Fox shouted. "Classic!"
Feathery fingers plucked at Coffey's wrist. The old man
thrust his Uncle Sam visage close. His mouth opened,
showing gaps of gums policed by ancient dental survi-
vors. "Could be money," he said. "That's everybody's
problem, am I right, fellow?"
"That's right," Coffey said, uneasily jovial. "It's the
root of all evil, they tell me."
"Wrong!" Fox shouted. "Why, money is not evil, Paddy
my boy. Money is the Canadian way to immortality."
"Cu-christ, here he gu-goes again," Harry said.
"Quiet now," Fox shouted. "I have to explain the facts
of life to our immigrant brother. Do you want to be re-
membered, Paddy? Of course you do. Then you must
bear in mind that in this great country of ours the sur-
est way to immortality is to have a hospital wing called
after you. Or better still, a bridge. We're just a clutch of
little Ozymandiases in this great land. Nobody here but
us builders. This is Canada's century, they tell us. Not
America's, mind you. Not even Russia's. The twentieth
century belongs to Canada. And if it does, then you had
better know our values. Remember that in this fair city of
Montreal the owner of a department store is a more im-
portant citizen than any judge of the Superior Court.
Never forget that, Paddy boy. Money is the root of all
good here. One nation, indivisible, under Mammon that's
our heritage. Now drink up."
Coffey reached for his fourth glass of beer. Might as
well. She didn't bloody well love him any more so what
did it matter if he got drunk. Today was enough to drive
any man to drink.
"Tonight, Coffey, you will become a proofreader. You
will read all the news. War in China, peace in our time.
Mere finger exercises. Later, Coffey, if you show promise,
we may let you read something more important. The
Quebec Society News, for instance. Or the Governor-Gen-
eral's speech to the Crippled Deaf Mute Division of the
United Sons of Scotland. And if you continue to show
promise if you make no mistake, allow no errors typo-
graphic or orthographic to slip into print, then we may
even let you read an advertisement. And some day, you
may become a senior man, a man who reads only ad-
vertisements. Because, Coffey, news is cheap. Here today
and gone tomorrow. But advertisements cost money.
They count. So you must get them right, do you hear?
"Compree," Coffey said, raising his hand to signal the
The old man nodded and smiled. "It's money that
counts, all right," he said. "Ten men run this country, did
you know that? Ten big finenceers. And did you know
there's a book tells you who they are and how they made
it? You'll want to read that book, being a New Canadian.
Yes, you will. You can borrow my copy, if you like."
Yes, CofFey said, he must dip into that sometime. He
paid for another round of beers.
"Are you just pu-passing through?" Harry asked him.
"Or du-do you pu-plan to stay for a while?"
Coffey took a long pull of his beer. "Passing through,"
he said. "Matter of fact, I'm just in the proofroom so's I
can pick up the Tribune style. MacGregor's going to make
me a reporter."
As he said this, he saw Fox screw up his left eye in a
large drunken wink. Harry collapsed in a fresh rush of
laughter. The old man shook his head. "Big finenceers,"
he mumbled. "Scab labor, that's what we are."
"But but what's the matter?" Coffey asked. "I mean,
what's funny about it?"
Again Fox winked at the others. "Nothing funny," he
said. "I just hope you succeed, that's all."
Coffey stared at their knowing faces. What did they
mean? Had he been tricked? "Look, fellows," he said.
"Tell me. I want to know. Do you think he will make me
"Stranger things have happened," Fox said. "Drink
"Big finenceers," the old man mumbled. "I remember
one time "
But Coffey no longer listened. He sat dumb, drowsy
with beer, the glasses multiplying in front of him, the
stylebook forgotten in his pocket. Were they making a
joke of him? Was MacGregor tricking him? What was
going on? Was it for this he had traveled across half a
frozen continent and the whole Atlantic Ocean? To finish
up as a galley slave among the lame, the odd, the halt, the
"Money," Fox was saying. "Oh, let me tell you, you can
be a four-letter bastard all your life but never mind. If
you die with enough money in the bank, the Tribune will
write you a fine editorial eulogy "
Had he been wrong to bet his all on Canada? Would he
have been better to stick in those dead-end jobs at home,
plodding along, day in and day out, until he dropped?
Canada listen to these fellows they seem to think
Canada is the back of beyond. . . .
"Nu-nother depression," Harry said. "You just wu-
watch it. They sneeze in the States and we get pneu-
Was that true? Was it a backwater, like the land he
had fled? Had he made the mistake of his life, landing
himself up here among these people, either smug like old
Gerry, or full of gloomy prophecies like these fellows?
Bloody Canada! Bloody Canadians!
"Just a poor clutch of Arctic-bound sods " Fox was
For if Veronica was going to leave him, then hadn't
this been the greatest mistake ever?
"Greatest mistake this country ever made was not join-
ing the United States," Fox said.
There was always Paulie. IVe got a job, Pet, he'd told
her. Yes, Daddy. Daddies are supposed to get jobs. Not
very great to have a job, is it? Not this job. Yes, if he lost
Veronica, he would lose Paulie too. And would have no
"Drink up," Fox said. "Last call, boys."
"Must phone," he said, standing up. "Just a moment."
Because, ah, Vcra didn't mean it, did she? She was just
upset, she would say she was sorry now. Never mind,
dear, he'd say. My fault. I love you, Kitten. I love you too,
Ginger. Yes . . . she'd be over it now. . . .
He dialed. "Vera?"
"It's me. Paulie."
"Oh, Paulie," Coffey said, closing his eyes, leaning his
forehead against the cool glass of the booth. "Is your
mother there, Pet?"
"I told you she went out."
"Daddy, are you drinking?"
"No, no, that's a way to speak to your Daddy! Listen,
Apple. Give her a message. Tell her to phone me. All
"The Tribune. It's a newspaper. All right?"
"Okay. I'll leave a note for her," Paulie said.
"What is it?" Paulie asked crossly.
"Paulie . . . You don't think I'm selfish, do you? I
me an listen, Apple. You're still my own little Apple,
"Oh, stdp it, Daddy!"
"Not cross at me ... I mean . . . listen, Pet. I mean,
Paulie . . . Daddy's not bad, is he? MmmP . . . Paulie?"
Dizzy, all that beer in a hurry, but the pane of glass was
so cool against his forehead . . .
"Listen, Pet . . . won't be home. Want to speak to
Mummy . . . tell her . . . Apple . . . Tell her, Daddy's
Fox banged on the door of the booth. "Saddle up," he
shouted. "Come on, galley slave. Hitler's Legion rides
Brr-brr-brr-brr the phone went. He shoveled the re-
ceiver back on to its cradle, and looked at it dully. No,
Paulie didn't care. . . .
He stepped out of the booth and stumbled. "I'm drunk/'
he said. "I'm ploothered."
"Never mind," Fox said. "So are we all, all honorable
men. Take his arm there. Hurry! Hurry!"
Into the men's washroom behind the composing room,
Old Billy Davis led Coffey, fumbling drunk. Stood him
beside the basins, took hold of Coffey's jaws, forcing them
open as though he would administer a pill, but instead
darted his finger into Coffey's mouth, pulled it out again
and forced Coffey's head down towards the washbasin.
Then waited, placid and fragile in his fawn windbreaker,
as his victim, hands gripping the basin, retched wildly,
flooding the bowl.
"No . . . no," Coffey moaned, coughing until the tears
"Better now? All right. Follow me."
Out of the men's locker room in a trembling run, past
the compositors' lockers, through the lanes of linotype
machines to the row of steel desks . . . Hands reached
past, claiming galleys, shuffling copy, spiking galleys;
busy, everyone busy, no voices heard above the chattering
mumble of machines. Drained, but still ill, Coffey made a
cradle of his arms and rested his head on the dirty steel
desk top. J. F. Coffey, Editor; J. F. Coffey, Journalist. In a
weak moment he felt the tears come: she did not love him;
she hated him and why shouldn't she, rotten with drink, he
was, great drunken lump, J. F. Coffey, Journalist, plooth-
ered his first night on the job. Ah God! He hated this
great lump, blowing into his thick red mustache, self-
pitying fool. . . .
"Hey, hey," Fox said, shaking him. "Wake up, Paddy.
Hitler's coming. Here you are."
A half -finished galley appeared in front of Coffey's face.
And just in time.
Mr. MacGregor was coming through. Bony old arms
hanging naked from shirt sleeves, blue vein pumping in
his pale forehead, fanatic eye starved for trouble. As he
swept out on his nightly visitation, office boys, delinquent
deskmen, guilty reporters, all avoided his eye, practiced
the immobility of small animals as a hawk moves over a
forest. But on the instant MacGregor entered the com-
posing room, some of the ferocity drained from his walk.
Here, old battles had been fought, old forts abandoned.
Here, the enemy was in full command, camped per-
manently within MacGregor's walls. Strikes, scabs, shut-
outs; all had failed. Hedged around by clause and con-
tract, the Managing Editor was forbidden to lay a finger
on one stick of type, denied the right to speak one word
of direct command. The composing room foreman waited
his nightly sortie with the amused contempt of a Roman
general dealing with the chieftain of a small hill tribe.
Here, each night, MacGregor relived his defeat.
And so, as was his custom, his impotence sought its
revenge. Alone in that union camp, the proofreaders were
still his servants.
"Who let this pass?" he shouted, shaking a galley high
above the dirty steel desks. "Who let this pass?"
Fox raised his gray stubbled chin, took the galley, con-
sulted the penciled initials. "Day man/' he said.
"Jesuschrist! Got this name wrong, see? Friend of the
Fox looked at the ceiling as though engaged in mental
arithmetic. His fellow workers read proof with awful in-
"Not our shift, sir," Fox said. "And we're late, sir. Still
short of men."
"I gave you a new man tonight. Where is he? New man
aye let's see . . ."
As he spoke, MacGregor ran around the desks and
snatched up the half-finished galley. "Well, Coffey, let's
see your wurrk?" He spread the galley on the desk top,
scanning it, block-reading not for sense but for typo-
graphical errors. Years of practice gave him an unerring
eye for flaw, but tonight he saw no flaw. Four errors on
the galley, four caught, so far. A new man? He did not
believe it. He turned on Fox. "These aren't his marks.
It was a guess, but once he had made it, MacGregor
snatched some of Fox's galleys off the spike and com-
pared. "Aye, these are your marks," he said in triumph.
"Show me your other galleys."
Behind his high desk, the composing room foreman
had been watching. He saw the new man's face, red, con-
fused, turn upwards towards his tormentor. Poor sod.
The foreman stepped down from his desk, approached,
stopping MacGregor in mid-shriek. "Your men are be-
hind here, Mr. Mac," he said. "All this talk is holding up
the work. You're short-staffed here, as usual. And we're
"We're doing our best, damn ye!"
But MacGregor turned away, spiked the galleys and
made off without another word, fearful of a new defeat, a
new infestation of mediators, arbitrators, international
representatives and similar union incubi and succubi.
The foreman winked at Coffey's bewildered face and
returned to his desk. The linotypers, prim and efficient on
their little stools, smiled as at an old and favorite joke
and monks performing a rite of exorcism the proof-
readers downed galleys and intoned a short chant of
MacGregorian abuse. Then, the obscenities observed,
Fox leaned across the desk and fed Coffey his first galley
of the night. "All right," he said. "Coast's clear. Do your
At ten the bell rang for supper break. At ten-fifteen it
rang again and they went on to work until one. Sober
now, Coffey found that he could do the job. Soon he was
reading galleys only seconds slower than old Billy and
half as quick as Fox. He was surprised, and pleased, be-
cause, all his life, do you see, he had been in jobs whose
only purpose seemed to be to convince some higher-up
that you were worth the money he was paying you. But
in this job, you read your galley and made your correc-
tions and, if you looked across the room, you could see
the make-up men going on with the next step in the proc-
ess. Within an hour or two, a newspaper would come off
the press and tomorrow morning people would buy it,
would read it over breakfast. You made something. There
was no coming the old soldier, either. You signed your
initials at the foot of each galley and if you let something
slip, it could be traced back to you.
It was a new and satisfying feeling.
And so, at one in the morning, when Coffey rode home
on the bus, a newly printed newspaper on his lap, he had,
by his habitual processes of ratiocination, convinced him-
self that the day was not a defeat but a victory. A little
victory. He had a job: he was working alongside a bunch
of Canadians in a far-off country, pulling his weight
with the best of them. As for Vera, she would be over her
bad temper by now. He would make a cup of cocoa for
her, bring her into the kitchen and tell her all about his
evening. He would kiss her and they would say they
were sorry, both of them. Hard-working Ginger. Not self-
ish, no. Doing the best he could.
There were no lights on in the duplex when he let him-
self in. In the outer hall, he listened for signs of life as he
emptied snow out of the turnups of his trousers. Quietly,
he passed by Paulie's room and, in the darkened master
bedroom, fumbled for the curtain drawstrings. The cur-
tains screeched on their runners, opening with a quick
flounce. Moonlight fell on his wife's slender body, wrapped
like a furled sail in all the bed-sheets.
"Veronica?" he whispered.
But she slept. Ah well, let her sleep: he would make
up with her tomorrow. He undressed in the moonlight,
looking out of the window. Snow, dead and thick and
white, shaded the arms of the tree opposite; wedged it-
self in clefts of branches; cake-iced the roofs of houses
across the street. The city was quiet, its traffic noises
muted by the snowfall. He yawned and reached for the
curtain drawstrings, sending the rings screeching on their
runners, closing the room to blackness again. He slipped
into bed and lay, listening to her breathe. How strange
life wasl Only this morning he had lain here beside her,
happy after joy, not knowing what the day would bring.
Only this afternoon he had walked away across the Palm
Court, in dread of her leaving him. Only a few hours ago
he had sat in a room full of machines, doing something he
had never done before. How could people say life was
dull? Ah, look at her now, asleep and at peace. If only
there had been no bitterness, if only those things had not
been said. If only he could take that part of the day away,
erase it with a kiss.
And why not? He snuggled against her. She was tall,
but his chin touched the top of her head, his feet slipped
under her soles, a pedestal for her feet. Oh, how warm
and soft she was, her nightgown rucked about her waist.
Warm she was. And warm he loved her.
"Don't," she mumbled. "No."
He smiled in the darkness and moved his hand up to
cup her breast.
"Stop it. Please, Gerry, stop."
He lay very quiet. He could hear his own heart. She
must hear it too; it was thumping like an engine. Slowly, he
reached out and fondled her breasts, his loins cold, his
"No, Gerry. Please. Not now."
He took his hand away. Slowly, careful not to wake her,
he turned his back to her and lay, eyes open in the dark,
his large body still as a statue on the lid of a tomb. He lis-
tened to her breathe. The intake was regular, yet irregu-
lar in the way of sleep. She was asleep. Yes, she was
dreaming a dream.
Do you remember that summer you were stationed at
the Curragh and you got a great crush on an eighteen-
year-old girl who never even knew you fancied her?
Didn't you dream about her many's a night that summer,
and did that mean that you slept with her? Or even kissed
her? Haven't you been unfaithful to Veronica a thousand
times in dreams?
Still, she only knows one Gerry. That long drink of
water? Besides, she's thirty-five, five years older than he
is. But he's a bachelor, he has a sports car and he's free
with his money. And she wept her troubles to him the
other day. He's why she wants to leave you. It's plain as
the nose on your face.
But was it? It could be a dream. One sentence in her
sleep after fifteen years of marriage didn't make a whore
of her, did it?
He lay, his eyes open in the darkness. He blinked his
eyes and felt something wet touch the corner of his
mouth, seeping through the edges of his mustache. He
was not going to boohoo like a baby, was he? Was he? No.
But, suffering J! It was hard to hold on to his hopes.
FouT Next morning, after she had fed him breakfast,
she said she was going downtown to see about a job.
"It's a millinery place that's run by a friend of Gerry
Grosvenor's. They need a saleslady."
"I won't be back for lunch," she said. "And if you go
out, you'd better buy something to put in your sand-
"All right." He looked down at his plate. He had no-
ticed she was wearing her good black suit.
"Paulie?" she called. "Get a move on, you'll be late for
school. Good-by, Ginger. Are you going to be at home all
"I suppose so."
"I'll phone you later on, then."
He heard the front door close. No kiss good-by. He sat,
his tea growing cold, hardly noticing Paulie, who rushed
in, ate, and fled late to school. Let her go. Let them all go.
A ruler went tickety-tak-tak down the staircase which
connected his apartment with the landlady's upstairs.
"M'sieur? Want to play with me?"
He looked up, met eyes lonelier than his. "Come on in,
Michel," he said. "Let's have a game, the pair of us."
The little boy had brought his building blocks. Coffey
cleared a space at the kitchen table and gravely, thirty-
nine and five years old, they built a house with a long
sugar-lump chimney. They played at building for more
than an hour until Michel's grandmother called from up-
Alone again, Coffey sucked a sugar lump. . . . Maybe
if he went down to Grosvenor's office, ostensibly to discuss
the proofreading job, and somehow brought the conversa-
tion around to Veronica? If he had any gumption at all,
wouldn't he see in Grosvenor's eyes the guilt or innocence
of last night's phrase?
All right. He shaved, dressed himself in his suit of
Dromore tweed, and took a bus to the financial district.
It was a quarter to twelve when he got off the bus. He
went into a drugstore, already crowded with typists on
their lunch hour, and in a phone booth at the rear, sur-
rounded by display cards showing smiling girls half-
naked under sun lamps, he phoned Gerry Grosvernor.
No, Mr. Grosvenor had just stepped out for a moment.
Would he mind calling back, please? And what was his
name, again? Coffey. Yes, he would call back. He hung up;
stared at the display cards of pretty, half-naked girls.
There were so many pretty girls in the world. Why
couldn't that long drink of water find one, instead of
coming after a friend's wife, a woman of thirty-five who
was not that pretty? Suffering J!
At five minutes to twelve he phoned again, this time
from the lobby of Grosvernor's building. Oh, she was very
sorry but the other girl had just told her that Mr. Gros-
venor had stepped out to lunch. Would he care to phone
after lunch? He would? Fine, then.
Flute! He stepped out of the phone booth and was
immediately jostled and pushed into a corner by the
flow of people hurrying from the elevators. Everybody
was in such a hurry here! Everybody shoving and push-
ing you aside! Canadians had no manners! Raw, cold
country with its greedy, pushy people, grabbing what
didn't belong to them, shoving you aside! Land of op-
portunity, my eye!
Now stop that, he told himself. Don't blame the whole
country for one twister of a cartoonist. Stop it. So he
stopped it. He went over to the newsstand in the lobby
and bought a package of cigarettes. No sense behaving
like a lunatic because of one little word in a woman's
dream. Ah, why didn't he go back to the house and forget
all this nonsense of waiting for Grosvenor. For it was all
nonsense. In the noon rush of people, it seemed incred-
ible. He had imagined the whole thing.
Someone caught at his sleeve. "Ginger. Hello there."
"Oh, hello, Gerry," he said guiltily.
"What are you doing in this part of the forest?"
"Well ah I just dropped by to have a word with
you. I mean about that proofreading job. I took it, you
People were passing, bumping against them as they
stood, stuck driftwood, in the current towards the re-
"Look, we can't talk here," Grosvenor said. "Let me
give you a lift uptown."
Coffey followed Grosvenor's tall thin back into the
merry-go-round of the doors. A cold wind met them as
they stepped out into the cavern of the street, and as
Coffey paused to put up his overcoat collar, Grosvernor
jumped boyishly out into the traffic, snapping his fin-
gers for a cab. A cab careened out of the traffic lane and
drew up, inches away from Grosvenor's body. But, flute!
He was unharmed.
"Comd 1 on, Ginger, hop in. Okay, driver, go on up
Beaver Hall Hill. Ill let you know where, later."
They settled in the back seat, side by side. "Well, Gin-
ger," Grovenor said. "Lucky day, eh?"
"Veronica's new job, of course. Didn't she tell you?"
Coffey's ruddy face stared straight ahead. "No," he
"Well, she was hired this morning at Modelli. It's a
chi-chi sort of hatshop. The pay is forty a week and a
sales bonus, which should bring it up to fifty-five most
weeks. Not bad for a start, eh?"
"Not bad," Coffey said. Five dollars a week more than
me, that's not bad.
"Well now, and what about you?" Grosvenor said.
"So you took the proofreading job, did you?"
In the side panel of the cab, enshrined under a tiny
light, was a police permit photograph of the driver. Mar-
cel Parent: 58452. Coffey looked at this photograph, then
at the back of the driver's head. God, it was mortifying
trying to talk in private while Marcel Parent: 58452 lis-
tened in on every syllable.
"I gather Vera knows the truth about the job," Gros-
venor said. "Too bad. I wonder is there anything I could
do, I mean about getting you promoted?"
Coffey shook his head. What did he care about jobs
now? What did it matter?
"I might phone old Mac and try to find out how long
he intends to keep you in that sweatshop?"
"No," Coffey said. "Don t bother."
"Look, there's no sense in your staying on there if it's
a dead end," Grosvenor said. "After all, don't forget,
that's the lowest job in the newspaper business. You can
do better than that."
Thank you, Marcel Parent, for looking into your driving
mirror to see what sort of specimen would accept the
lowest job in the newspaper business.
"So what else is new?" Grosvenor asked.
You tell me, Coffey thought. But he said: "Nothing.
Are you having lunch with anyone?"
For the first time, he saw a flicker of uneasiness in
Grosvenor's eyes. "Well, yes, as a matter of fact I am,"
Grosvenor said. "It's a business lunch. I'd like to have you
join us, but it would bore you stiff."
"No, I didn't mean that," Coffey said. "I was just won-
dering where where you could drop me off."
"Anywhere you say, Ginger."
"Well, just drop me anywhere that suits you. Where
are you going?"
"The Pavilion," Grosvenor said. "So Til drop you on the
corner of Ste. Catherine and Drummond, okay?"
When the taxi stopped at the corner of Drummond
Street, Grosvenor refused Coffey 's share of the fare. "I'm
loaded," he said. "Lots of expense account money these
days. Be seeing you."
"Be seeing you," Coffey echoed. He watched the cab
move away. Seeing you, yes; and, seeing you, aren't you
one of the drippiest drinks of water I've ever laid eyes on?
Expense account or not, artist or not, what could she see
in you, you self-satisfied sausage?
Still, Veronica had phoned Grosvenor this morning.
Not him. And wasn't Grosvenor just the boy who would
invite a person to lunch to celebrate anything under the
sun? He was indeed.
But he turned around, hurried down Drummond Street
and went into the Pavilion. At the entrance to the dining
room, he hesitated, wanting to turn back. A headwaiter
came from behind a stand-up desk, tapping a sheaf of
menus against his stiff shirt-front. "Have you a reserva-
"No. I'm just looking for a friend of mine."
"What name, sir?"
"A Mr. Grosvenor."
"Oh yes, sir. This way please."
The headwaiter sailed out among the tables like a
ship's figurehead, turning to make sure that Coffey fol-
lowed. Halfway across the room, he stopped and
pointed. "Over here, sir. This way."
"Never mind. I I see he's busy."
Busy he was. In a corner, at a tiny table behind a pillar,
the pair of them deep in chat over Martinis. Out of the
dining room Coffey fled, running down the steps into the
street, a boy escaping a pair of bullies. But wasn't it them
who should have run from him? He stopped on the street
corner, out of breath. Why had he ever gone in there?
And why had he bolted? He should have faced them, but
how could he start a row in front of a roomful of people?
To fight or not to fight. To run or stand. What did it mat-
ter? He crossed the street and stood in line for a bus.
Every hour of last night had moved as slowly as a sun
crossing the midsummer sky. And yet he had managed
to get up this morning with a reasonable amount of
doubt. But now . . .
Now, it made sense. Even her anger when he told her
he had spent the ticket money. She had been prepared to
go home to Ireland with him, that was the worst of all.
She had been willing to stick with him.
He stopped off on the way back and bought some bolo-
ney for sandwiches. He bought two pears for Paulie. Poor
Paulie. No wonder Veronica didn't care if the child ate
properly. No wonder she let Paulie run around with ink
spots on her school tunic. Why shouldn't she, when her
mind wasn't on her family at all? All, a lot of things made
When he entered the outer hall of their apartment, lit-
tle Michel was sitting on the staircase, waiting for him.
"Hey, M'sieur. See what I got?"
"Yes, just a minute, Michel." He unlocked the door of
his apartment and put the grocery bag inside. A toy made
a noise behind him. It was a small robot, battery-oper-
ated: its cubed legs moved with a slow grinding of cogs,
its eyes lit red and there were little antennae coming out
of its head. As Coflfey watched, the toy fell. The legs had
not gained purchase on the slippery linoleum.
"It's too slidey here," the child complained.
"Oh. Well bring him in, why don't you? There's a
carpet in the hall."
They went into Coffey 's place. The boy placed the toy
on the worn carpet runner. "Watch now, M'sieur. I press
Coffey squatted to watch. Robot cogs ground, robot
eyes glowed. The manikin, stiff-legged, rocked slowly
forward. "By the holy," Coffey said. "That's a grand toy.
Where'd you get it?"
"My Mama give it to me."
"See this little door in his back?" Coffey said. "That's
where the battery is."
"Don't touch him. He's my toy!"
"Sorry," Coffey said. "Here you are/'
But the child handed the toy back at once. "Montrez
"Now hold on, old son," Coffey said. "You know I don't
parley-voo. Wish I did, though. . . . There you are. See
that little thing in there? That's what makes him work."
"Well, it keeps him alive. It's his juice."
"Why does juice make him walk?"
"Well, if you have no juice Look here, Michel, why
don't you go on upstairs now? I feel tired."
"But there's nobody upstairs," Michel said.
"Where's your Mama?"
"Mama's out. Grand'mere is sleeping. Please, M'sieur.
Play with me?"
Coffey sighed. "All right," he said. "Let's take it in the
They went into the kitchen. Coffey unloosened his tie
and sat down. For fifteen minutes Michel played with the
robot while he, with a pretended show of interest, an-
swered the childish questions. He looked at Michel's
ragged little head bent over the toy. Was it because he
had never given her a son that she had done this to him?
Was that far-fetched? But oh! What reason could be
stranger than the strangeness of the fact.
"He's broke, M'sieur. He's broke, he don't work."
"Wait a sec. Let's see." Coffey took the robot, opened
the back and fiddled with the wires. Probably a bad con-
nection. He straightened the contacts.
"Will he work now?"
"Let's see. Put him on the floor, Michel."
"For the love of Mike, why didn't you close the front
door?" Veronica's voice shouted down the corridor.
"You'll freeze the place."
Man and child exchanged glances, strangely united in
apprehension. Coffey stood up as she came into the
kitchen. "Did you have lunch?" he said.
"You know damn well I had lunch. Why did you run
off like that?"
"M'sieur, he still won't work."
"Go home, Michel," Veronica said.
"Now, just a moment, dear/' Coffey said. '"Michel's
been keeping me company, haven't you, Michel?"
"I want to talk to you, Ginger. Gerry's outside."
"Look, Michel, push the button like this. See? Now, I'll
bet you he'll even walk upstairs with you. Try? All right?
Off you go, lad."
Michel rubbed the tears from his fat little cheeks. He
took the robot, which was now moving and grinding per-
fectly. "Oh, thanks, M'sieur" he said. "Thanks, thanks."
And ran off down the hall, the robot in his hand.
Slowly, Coffey stood up. Oh, to be a boy . . . tears one
moment, all wiped away the next. A world of toys. Noth-
ing so terrible a kindness would not change it. Oh, to be a
boy. . . .
Too old for toys, he turned to face her; waited for what
new bead she would string on her rosary of lies.
"Gerry's here," she repeated. "I didn't want him to
come, but he insisted. He wants to talk to you alone. And,
"Ginger, I don't want you to fight with Gerry. It won't
do any good, do you hear?"
He turned away without answering and went down the
He opened the front door, and there was Grosvenor.
"May I come in a moment?" Grosvenor asked and came
in, walking as though he entered a house where someone
was ill. Together, with Coffey leading the way, they went
back along the railroad corridor passageway to the living
room. Coffey opened the door and, out of habit, stood
back to let his visitor pass. As he did, he saw Veronica
sitting in the kitchen, shoulders bent as though anticipat-
ing a blow. Irrationally, he wanted to go to her and tell
her everything would be all right. But how could he tell
her, he who did not know how wrong things were? And
why shoilld he, he thought, in sudden anger. This was
not his fault.
He went in after Grosvenor and carefully shut the
door. He looked at Grosvenor as though seeing him for
the first time. Grosvenor was nine years younger than he;
taller too. Yet Coffey knew he could win. One good clout
and Grosvenor would burst like a paper bag. He waited
as Grosvenor took off his overcoat and laid it on a chair.
Then Grosvenor produced cigarettes, and a lighter ini-
tialed G.G. He offered both. Coffey shook his head. They
stood back, fighters after the traditional handshake.
"I saw you go out of the restaurant/' Grosvenor said. "I
called after you, but you didn't hear me. So I thought,
under the circumstances, I'd better come up here and
explain. I'm not the sort of man who hides behind a
woman's skirts, Ginger."
Only go up them, Coffey thought.
"I'm not going to lie to you, Ginger. I've been in love
with Veronica ever since I met her. At first, I thought
there was no hope for me. Now I realize there is. I'm go-
ing to fight for her, Ginger."
Grosvenor waited but Coffey did not speak. "I'm sorry
this has happened, Ginger. Believe me, no matter what, I
think of you as a friend."
"Do you, now?" Coffey said. "Trying to stuff another
man's wife, is that your idea of being a friend?"
"Now, wait, Ginger. I know you're angry and you have
every right to make ugly remarks about me. But not about
Veronica. Veronica's a wonderful girl and she's been ter-
ribly loyal to you."
"She's my wife," Coffey said. "I don't need you to tell
me what she's like."
"You don't?" Grosvenor said. "I'm not sure about that.
If you knew her, you wouldn't have spent your ticket
money home. And I'd have lost her."
"You haven't got her yet. Nor will you."
"Maybe not, Ginger. But she wants to leave you. You
"Will you shut your gob!" Coffey shouted. "This is a
private matter between me and Veronica "
"Now wait. I'm nearly finished, Ginger. I've told Ve-
ronica that any time she's ready, I'll take care of her. I've
promised to give her all the things she needs: love and
consideration. And security."
"You louser," Coffey said. "What the hell do you know
about love? All you want is to get up some woman's
skirts, you skinny bastard you."
"I knew you'd say that," Grosvenor said. "But let me
set you straight on one thing. This is love, not lust. What
Veronica and I feel for each other is precious. I know
that sounds corny, Ginger, but it happens to be the
truth. We're in love, and we intend to stay in love until
"Get out," Coffey said. "Get out before I flatten you."
"Wait a minute, Ginger, I'm not finished yet. I came
here to settle this "
"Right, then. Put up your dukes!"
"I don't mean fighting, Ginger. Fighting isn't going to
settle anything. Now wait a minute "
But Coffey hit him, his fist thudding against Gros-
venor's cheek. Grosvenor's head cracked back; his knees
joined ludicrously like an opened scissors. He stood, hold-
ing his face with both hands as Coffey hit him again, first
on the side of the head, then, with all his strength, in the
body. Grosvenor stumbled. His hands went to protect his
stomach. Immediately, Coffey finished him with a blow
in the mouth, then stood back, his knuckles skinned on
Grosvenor's teeth. Grosvenor fell against a sofa and sat
down on the floor, his mouth widening in a trickle of
blood like a sad clown's grin.
"Get up," Coffey said, waiting.
"Go on," Grosvenor said, thickly. "Hit me. Hit me if it
does you any good."
"No," Grosvenor said.
Coffey stood sucking his knuckles, staring at Gros-
venor. He had never met one like this before.
"Hit me if you want," Grosvenor said, still sitting on
the floor. "But the fact is, I didn't come to fight, I came to
talk. Veronica tells me she doesn't think you'd have any
religious objections to getting a divorce. Is that true?"
Coffey ignored him. He opened the living room door
and called: "Veronica?"
She came, from the kitchen.
"Is it true you want a divorce, Vera?"
But she had seen Grosvenor sitting on the floor. She
went to him, bent over him. "Oh, Gerry," she said. "What
happened? What did he do to you?" She turned to Cof-
fey. "How could you?" she said. "He was only trying to
How could he? He looked at her, looking at her face
which he knew so well and did not know at all; saw the
thing he had seen yesterday. Hate. He could not bear
that hate. He lowered his gaze to the worn pattern of the
carpet, the fleur-de-lis, blue and gold. "Paulie's coming
with me," he said.
"You have no money, Ginger. You can't look after her."
"I have some," he said.
"No, Ginger. I went to the bank yesterday. I took all
that was left."
He remembered the ten-dollar bill she had paid the tea
with. So that was it. "Paulie's coming with me," he re-
"Look, Ginger," Grosvenor said. "In case you're worry-
ing about the effect this might have on Paulie, I give you
my word to keep out of things until this is settled between
"Your word of honor?" Coffey said. "You specimen!"
"You're a nice one to talk," Veronica began. "You
But he could not bear to hear her. He left the room,
went into the bedroom and shut the door. Confused, he
began to open closets and drawers, throwing shirts,
socks and underwear in a heap on the bed. No, she wasn't
going to get Paulie. She wasn't going to leave him all
alone now, with nobody, with nothing. He and Paulie,
just the two of them
But where? And on what?
He sat down on the bed, in large, trembling dignity.
His image in the dresser mirror looked at him: large,
trembling. Look at him, would you, sitting there with
his great big ginger mustache, in the hacking jacket he
spent hours picking out in Grafton Street, with the tie to
match. When, what matter, ties will not make the man,
no, nor throwing her across this bed yesterday morning,
pleased with yourself for being the great stud, when all
the time she was dreaming of Grosvenor. Look at yourself,
would you. Take a good look.
He looked at him. A stupid man, dressed up like a
Dublin squire. Looked at the frightened, childish face
frozen now in a military man's disguise. He hated that
man in the mirror, hated him, Oh, God, there was a use-
less bloody man, coming up to forty and still full of a
boy's dreams of ships coming in; of adventures and es-
capes and glories still to be. When, what were the true
facts of that big idjit's life? FACTS: James Francis Coffey,
failed B.A.; former glorified secretary to the Managing
Director of a distillery; former joeboy in the advertising
department, after he was kicked downstairs; former glo-
rified secretary to the Manager of a knitwear factory;
failed sales representative of three concerns in this new
and promised land. FACTS: Husband of a woman who
wanted out before it was too late; father of a fourteen-
year-old girl who ignored him. . . . FatheadI Great
Lump! With nine solitary dollars between him and all
The mirror man looked sad. Yes, he hated that man,
that man he had made in the mirror, that mirror man
who had unmade him. No one honored that foolish sad
impostor, no one loved him. Except him: for only he knew
that the big idjit had meant no harm, had suffered many's
a hurt. Ah, poor fraud, he thought. You're all I have. Yet,
even I don't like you.
Quiet footsteps passed in the corridor. Whispers. The
front door shut. That was Grosvenor leaving, he sup-
posed. He looked at his face and his face looked at him.
Well now, you, what are you going to do?
Speak to Paulie when she comes in? Ask her
What good will that do? She's her mother's girl.
No, no, I'll explain. I'll show her how we can manage,
just the two of us.
Yes, the mirror man said. You've managed rightly, un-
til now, haven't you? Judging by today.
Now, wait I'll get a job, I'll get two jobs, I'll work
day and night if need be. . . .
But the front door had opened. Paulie's voice called:
"Mummy? Are you there, Mummy?"
He stood up, pulled down the peaks of his doeskin
waistcoat and went into the hall. "Paulie?" he said. "Would
you come into the kitchen for a second?" He waited as she
removed her duffel coat and overshoes and followed him
down the corridor. As they passed the living room, he saw
that the door was shut. They went into the kitchen.
"Sit down, Pet/' he said. "I want to have a word with
She was tall for her age, Paulie. Her hair was reddish,
like his own. She had his large hands and something of
him in her pale, placid face. As he drew out a chair for
her, he noticed again the patch of ink on the shoulder
strap of her jumper.
"I was wondering," he said. "How would you like to
move to a new flat, Pet?"
"Anything would be better than this dump. Are we go-
ing to move, Daddy?"
"Well, I mean just you and me," he said.
"What about Mummy?" Paulie asked, her pale blue
eyes worrying at him. "What happened? Did you have a
"No it's just that Well, Mummy's got a job. It
would suit her better if she stayed on here for a while. I
"I can't see any sense in that, Daddy. You did have a
row, isn't that it?"
"Look, Pet," he said. "It's just that well, I need you
more than Mummy does."
"I'd have to do the cooking, you mean. And make the
beds and stuff?"
"Oh, I'd help you, Apple. It's not for that. It's for com-
pany I'm asking you."
Paulie picked at her fingernail. The sink tap dripped on
a plate. "I want to stay here," she said. "Let's both stay
here, Daddy. All right?"
He nodded, uncomfortably. To get her to come he
would have to tell the truth, and how could he? No mat-
ter what, as his mother used to say, a child has only one
mother. And Paulie, tall and fourteen, was still her
"All right," he said. "We'll talk about it later. Listen,
Pet. I have some boloney in the fridge. Would you make
me three sandwiches for my supper tonight? And I left
two pears there for you, as a present."
"Oh thanks," she said, offhand. "Do you want mustard
in your sandwiches?"
"Yes, please." Mustard, no I don't want mustard, I
want you. He watched her at the refrigerator and, after
a moment's hesitation, turned and left the kitchen. He
went to the living room and knocked on the door. Ve-
ronica was sitting on the sofa.
"Did you tell her?" Veronica asked.
"What do you mean, tell her? It's pretty hard to tell a
child that her mother is some class of whore."
"What are you talking about?" she said. "How dare
Hope, sudden and joyful, made him raise his eyes from
the carpet, blue fleur-de-lis on gold. "You mean there's
been nothing between you and Pal Gerry?"
"Of course not. Who do you think I am?"
"What did you expect me to think, Vera?"
"I wouldn't know. Did you try to get Paulie to go with
He nodded, eyes on the carpet once more.
He shook his head.
"Good for her," Veronica said. "She has some sense."
"Has she? I wonder."
"She knows if she stays with me, I'll look after her," Ve-
"So would I. Don't sneer. So would II"
"I'm not sneering, Ginger. I'm sorry for you."
"Sorry?" He looked at her. He'd sorry her. "I'm going
to work now," he said. He left the room, calling to Paulie.
"Apple? Are those sandwiches ready yet?"
"Hold your horses, Daddy. I'm making them."
He went to the hall, put on his coat and hat. Paulie
came out with the sandwiches in a brown-paper bag. She
gave them to him and he took her by the shoulders, kiss-
ing her pale cheek. "Daddy," she said. "Could I have a
dollar? I want to go to a movie with some girls tonight."
He took out his wallet. He had nine dollars left. Nine
between him and all harm. He gave one to his Paulie.
Now there were eight.
He went out, closing the apartment door behind him,
and in the common hallway put on his overshoes. Money,
oh those proofreaders were right. Money made this world
go round. If he had enough money Veronica wouldn't be
leaving him. If he had enough money he could have
wooed Paulie to come with him, promised a house-
keeper, promised her treats. Money, that was Our Sav-
ior. Not love, mind you, not good intentions, not hon-
esty nor truth. Because if you couldn't make money, they
would leave you, wife, child, friends, everyone. It looked
that way, didn't it? It did. It did indeed.
Jesus, there he was again, sitting on the stairs, the ro-
bot on the step beside him.
"M'sieur, you want to play a game?"
"No, Michel. I have to go to work now. Play with your
toy. Your little man there. Tell him a story, maybe?"
"What will I tell him, M'sieur?"
"Tell him your name and all about you. All about
where he's going to live and who he's going to meet. Tell
him some of the stories I told you."
"Bi0n," the child said. He picked up the robot and put
it on his knee. Coffey bent over, rumpled the boy's ragged
crop of hair. "Good man yourself," he said. "So long,
"Wait. Let's play the wish."
"All right" Coffey said. "But hurry up."
As he had done many times before, he leaned over and
put his ear close to Michel's mouth. The little boy put his
arm around Coffey's neck. "What do you wish for?" he
The wish game. Wish, if he could wish, what would he
wish for? Not for adventures now, not for travels, not for
fame. For love? Was it any use to wish for love?
"You wish first," he said to the boy. "You first."
"I wish," the childish voice breathed in his ear, "I wish
we had a whole lot of toys and you and me could play
with them all the time. Because I love you, M'sieur"
Awkwardly, CofFey disengaged himself and stood up.
He looked down at Michel's head, big and vulnerable on
the slender, childish neck. Oh, to be a boy. . . .
But children must grow up. "Good-by, Michel," he
He went to work. There was no time for the facts of his
situation, the disasters of his day. All the world's news
waited: it must be read, corrected, initialed, sent back
to linotype, rechecked, cleared. The presses waited. The
edition was running late. And yet, at eight o'clock, in the
midst of it all, a copy boy came through the aisles of
linotype machines towards the dirty steel desks where
proofreaders helter-skeltered among galleys, late, all late.
Linotype gremlins, double line, transpose, insert, delete,
new lead, add front, all had to go, no time for talk now,
hurry, hurry. Late.
"Phone for Coffey?" the copy boy shouted. "Got a
Coffey here?" Coffey looked up, waiting Fox's permission
to go; but Fox was too busy, they were all too busy, and
so, a man leaving the sinking ship, Coffey stood, ran
guiltily to the corridor where the phone was, passing the
service elevator which waited to rush plates down to the
presses. Late, late.
"Ginger?" It was Veronica on the line.
Above the phone stand was a printed card:
No PERSONAL CALLS DURING WORKING HOURS
G. E. MACGREGOR
"Yes, what is it?" Coffey said.
"Madame Beaulieu's just been in here raising the roof.
You were supposed to tell her whether we were keeping
the place on or not/*
"Look," he said. "I've no time to talk now, I'm in a
"Well, hold on. Because I told her we weren't going to
stay and she says in that case we have to move out by to-
morrow morning at the latest. She has another tenant *
"But that's impossible, Vera. Why "
"No, it's not. I've already made arrangements about
Paulie and me. We're moving to a ladies' boardinghouse
"But that's not fair"
"Paulie wants to go with me," she interrupted. "And I
have to move tonight because I'm starting work to-
morrow morning. Gerry's coming to take our stuff in an
hour or so. That's why I called you. We won't be here
when you get back."
"Ah now, wait a minute where are you going?"
"I'm not telling you the address," she said. "I'll be in
touch with you. And listen, I've left ten dollars for you on
the dresser under the mirror "
"You skunk!" he shouted. "Waiting until I was out of
the house "
"Ten dollars is all I can afford, Ginger. Ill need the
rest to get Paulie settled/'
"I'm not talking about money Vera? Listen, Vera,
wait until tomorrow, at least "
But as he spoke, he saw young Kenny running to-
wards him along the corridor, gesticulating. "Hitler,"
Kenny whispered. "Hurry."
MacGregor. Involuntarily, and at once, Coffey hung
up. In a winding rush, he followed young Kenny back
to the proofroom. Late, late, No PERSONAL CALLS. He
rushed back to reading and read in a daze, not even
thinking of what had happened, mesmerized by Mac-
Gregor's imminent arrival, afraid to do anything which
would incur that ancient's wrath. It was only later, dur-
ing supper break, that he realized the enormous con-
sequences of her telephone call and the strangeness of
his own behavior. Even then, he could not believe it had
happened. She and Paulie would be there when he got
home. They must be there.
But that night, when he arrived back at the duplex,
they were gone. Even their clothes were gone. He went
to the dresser mirror, found the ten dollars and looked for
a note. But there was no note.
At eight o'clock the following morning, Madame
Athanase Hector Beaulieu knocked on the door. When he
opened, she bent down, picked up a pailful of soaps and
rags and marched in.
"The rent was only paid until yesterday," she said.
"Today, you should not be here. I have to clean this place,
my husband's bringing a tenant to see it in his lunch
"Fair enough," Coffey said. "Carry on."
Madame Beaulieu opened the hall closet. Coffey 's rain-
coat and little hat hung forlorn on the long rack. "All this
stuff," she said. "I want it out." She shut the closet and
marched down the corridor into the kitchen, sniffing and
peering like a social worker in a tenement. "My husband
warn me/' she said. "He told me: Bernadette, he said,
these people come from the other side, they have no
references, you don't know who they are. And I told my
husband, don't worry, I said, they're nice people, you
don't have to worry. But, look what happened. You never
told me you weren't keeping the place on. You should
have told me."
"I'm sorry, yes, I know I should," Coffey said. "Very
sorry indeed. Look perhaps I can give you a hand to
clear up in here?"
He went back into the bedroom and dressed himself.
He must pack. He was not used to packing for himself. It
seemed impossible that at any moment Veronica and
Paulie wouldn't come in and help him. It seemed im-
possible that he did not know where they were. Or what
to do now. Or where to go.
An hour later, he carried two clumsily stuffed suitcases
into the outer hallway which connected his apartment
with the one upstairs. Beside the suitcases he placed the
overflow: three paper bags full of socks and handker-
chiefs and a lamp which, for some reason, Veronica had
not bothered to take. Then, carrying his raincoat, a cloth
cap and a package of books tied with string, he went
down the railroad corridor of that dismal place for the
last time. He put his key on the kitchen table. "I just came
to give you this and say all the best, Madame. And to
thank you for everything."
Madame Beaulieu was scouring the kitchen floor. She
did not answer; did not look up. Ah well . . . there was
a lady he never cared to see again.
He went outside and sat islanded by his possessions in
the common hallway, waiting for the taxi he had or-
dered. He thought of Michel. Quietly, so that Madame
would not hear him, he ascended the flight of stairs to
his landlady's place. Quietly, he knocked on the door.
"Michel?" he whispered.
The little boy opened, all joy. Coffey squatted on his
heels, grinned at Michel and in a sudden sadness pulled
the child towards him, planting a bristly mustache kiss
on the soft childish cheek. Michel, tickled, snatched off
Coffey's hat and placed it on his own head, laughing.
"Looks grand on you," Coffey said. "Now, wait a sec."
He took the hat from Michel's head, removed the two Al-
pine buttons and the little brush dingus and handed them
to the boy. "And here," he said, closing Michel's plump
little paw around a dollar bill. "That's to buy the car I
promised for your birthday. Now, be a good boy, won't
you, son? I have to go."
"Please. Stay and play?"
"Must go. Bye-bye." Gently, he pushed Michel back
into the apartment, closed the door, and ran downstairs,
his chest tight and hurting. What's this world coming to,
he wondered, when at my age I've just said good-by for-
ever to the only person in the world who seems to love
me? Michel: what will become of him? What will be-
come of me?
"Where to?" the taxi driver asked.
He tried to grin. "By the holy, I have no notion. I'm
looking for a cheap room downtown. Some place clean."
"What about the Y?" the driver said.
"Fair enough. The Y it is, then."
Five At the Y.M.C.A,, they rented him a basement
locker for his possessions and asked for a week's room rent
in advance. That was nine fifty in all, which left him ex-
actly seven dollars and forty-five cents until his first pay-
day. And while he put that worry out of his mind as not his
greatest, still it occurred to him that his new life would not
The room was furnished with a bed, a Bible, a chair
and dresser. When he sat in the chair, his knees touched
the bed. When he lay on the bed he could reach out and
open the door, pull down the window blind, open the
dresser drawers and get at the Bible, without ever putting
his feet on the ground. So, bed it was then. He removed
his shoes and jacket and lay down. Opposite his window a
forty-foot neon sign flashed on and off every eight seconds.
BUBBLE BATH CAR WASH
DAY & NIGHT
Did it flash on and off all night? He pulled the win-
dow blind down and the sign light beat like a hot, red
wave against the dun darkness which resulted. He shut
He was alone: for the first time in fifteen years no one
in the world knew where Ginger Coffey was. For the first
time in fifteen years, he had stopped running. He ex-
haled, stroking the ends of his large mustache. Yes, it was
good to rest.
Of course, there were things he should do. He should
find his wife's hidey-hole, for one. He could hang around
outside Paulie's school and shadow her home to wherever
they were staying. But why should he? Hadn't he been
far too soft with the pair of them? Wouldn't it serve
them right if he never tried to find them, if he just disap-
peared altogether and settled in here like a mole gone to
ground? Not a bad life either: sleeping late every morn-
ing, eating his breakfast in some cafeteria, going for
walks, seeing the odd film, having a daily swim in the
pool downstairs and then each night, to work at six. No
ties, no responsibilities, no ambitions. By the holy, that
would be a grand gesture. To retire from the struggle,
live like a hermit, unknown and unloved in this faraway
Hermit, eh? No sex?
No sex. Wasn't that the height of freedom, to be able
to tell any woman to go to hell? Any woman, no matter
how beautiful, no matter how much she begs. Sending
them all away, spurning all ambitions, content to be a
proofreader to the end of his days.
But wouldn't that be ruining his whole life, out of pure
Well, and supposing it was, wasn't it a grand revenge?
Because, God! he knew her; she'd be expecting him to
run after her, to plead and beg and argue and shout.
Well, to hell with her. Let her try to be the breadwinner,
she'd find it wasn't so easy. No, the good doggy wouldn't
beg any more. As of this morning, Good Doggy was Lone
Yes, but wasn't it a crime to abandon your wife and
Who abandoned who, anyway? Didn't they throw me
But you'd be lonely, you'd have no friends?
Well well, he would talk to the fellows at work. And
now and then pass the time of day with a waitress or a
fellow lodger here. He would be a mystery man, the
hermit of the Y.M.C.A. After thirty years or so, he would
die in his sleep and people would say, Didn't notice Mr.
Coffey around lately. Wonder what happened to him?
Never knew much about him, dignified man, lived all
alone, kept to himself, probably had some shocking trag-
edy in his life, A quiet, mysterious man. . . . Wouldn't
that be a grand way to go? Nobody with a word against
you, nobody judging whether you were good, or bad.
Your secrets interred with your bones.
In the day-darkness, he began to daydream of that
future life. A hermit in the city, his tongue cracked from
unuse, he lay on his narrow pallet in that tiny cell listen-
ing to a radio down the hall. A woman's voice sang:
Don't you be mean to Baby
'Cause Baby needs lovin' tool
From now on, all the world would be like that faraway
woman, singing without him, not knowing if he lived or
died. He thought of all the rich and beautiful women in
the world; of how many thousands of rich and beautiful
women must be in this city, this minute. To hell with
them. He had turned his back on them. They could be as
rich and lovely as they liked. What were they to him, or
he to them? Why, if he dropped dead here this instant,
that woman would go on singing. Which was shocking,
the bloody inhumanity of it. Singing over a dead man.
Of course, to be fair, the only reason that woman would
go on singing was because she did not know him. After all,
he could make himself known; could ring her up on the
telephone if he wanted to. But if he did, would she even
speak to him? Supposing he waited for her as she came
out of the radio station and stepped up to her, his tongue
cracked with unuse: "Madam, for years now, yours has
been the only woman's voice heard in my hermit's cell/'
Would she pause, the tears coming to her eyes, would she
put out her gloved hand, leading him towards her lim-
ousine, saying Take me to your room and tell me all about
yourself? What is your name? Why is a handsome, intel-
ligent man like yourself living this hermit's life? Why?
Ah, it was criminal of that wife and daughter to abandon
you. You gave them up? Why? Because you had your
pride, you refused to stay where you were no longer
wanted. Ah, you are a saint, James Francis Coffey. A
saint to have put up with them so long.
But he would never meet her, that unknown singer.
And if he never met her, if he never met anyone from now
on, nobody would know about his renunciation of all ties,
all ambitions. What good was it, doing something, if no-
body in the whole world knew you were doing it? What
was more terrible than being alone all your life, nobody
caring if you lived or died? Why, if he went on being a
proofreader for the rest of his days, living in a place like
this, he might never have another intimate conversation
with a living soul. What sort of man was he that he could
even consider such a thing? Look at yourself, would you?
Lying in this dump, all alone. And that damned singing
woman. Ah, shut your gob, womanl
"Turn that bloody thing off," he shouted.
But the singing continued. Nobody heard. Holy God,
nobody heard him, shut up in this cell. He could die this
instant, call for help suffocate and nobody would
He got off the bed, put on his shoes and went out
into the corridor. The doors to the other rooms were open.
Nobody there. He was alone here, he could die here, that
was what Vera and Paulie had done to him. He went
down the corridor. One door was shut. One door, behind
which that bloody woman caterwauled her song. In a
sudden mindless rage, he ran towards that door, thumped
on it, shouting: "Turn that off. Turn it down, do you
Nobody answered. The horrible endearments went on.
'Cause Baby needs lovin', yes
Baby needs lovin' to-oo!
He grabbed the door handle and the door opened inwards,
spilling him into pitch-blackness.
A light snapped on. One of the thinnest men Coffey
had ever seen stood on the bed in his undershorts, his
long hair rumpled like a coxcomb. The horrible woman
sang from a miniature radio dangling like a camera
around the thin man's neck. The tiny room, twin to Cof-
fey's, was jammed with developing trays, film packs, mus-
cle-building equipment, a stripped-down radio transmit-
ter, a judo mat, a tape recorder and a huge pile of men's
"You bastard/' the man said. "Look what you done.
You just ruined five bucks' worth of color film."
"Sorry isn't enough. Come on in. Let's get a little nat-
ural light on the subject."
The stranger ripped a blanket from his window,
switched off the overhead light, shut off the radio, and
sank down on the bed, crosslegged, like an Indian holy
man, sweeping the pile of men's magazines to the floor.
"Sit down," he said. "Know what you done? You ruined
my entry for the Popular Photography Contest, that's
what. Two hours I spent in the cab of a crane to get this
shot and now it's ruined. The least you can do is pay me
for the film. Five bucks."
"But I well, I'm very short of money," Coffey said.
"I can't afford to pay you. I'm sorry."
"Now, wait a minute; let's discuss it," the thin man said.
"This is a problem in human relations. My name is War-
ren K. Wilson, by the way. What's your name?"
"Okay, Ginger. Now, youVe got a job, right?"
"Yes. But I'm just a proofreader. I don't earn much "
"Well, get another job, why don't you?"
"It's not so easy," Coffey said. "I've been trying."
"What do you mean, it's not easy? There's plenty of
work in this country if you know how to go after it. You
live here in the Y?"
"No ah my wife's not with me just now."
"Oh-oh," Wilson said. "You got a wife, have you? Not
so good. I happen to know about a couple of jobs that's
going up North this week. I'm heading up to Blind River
myself, Monday morning. Of course, you married guys
are screwed. Now, let's see. What are your hours on this
"Six at night until one in the morning."
"Perfect. Can you drive a truck?"
"As a matter of fact, I can. At least, I drove one in the
"Right. How'd you like a job making deliveries, here in
Montreal? Eight to four, six days a week, and it pays
Coffey stared at the judo mat on the floor. Driving a
truck? Was that what he had come to Canada for?
"See, I just quit this job yesterday," Wilson said. "TiNY
ONES it's a diaper service outfit. Suppose I get you taken
on there? That worth five bucks to you? You owe me the
"Diapers?" Coffey said. "Isn't that sort of a sort of a
Wilson bent forward, his body half -disappearing under
the bed, his knobbly backbone curved like Charlie Chap-
lin's walking stick. Up he came with a package of ciga-
rettes. He lit one and blew a smoke ring. "I done the job
for two months/' he said, staring at Coffey through the
ring. "Do I stink?"
"Sorry. No, of course not, I just meant "
"Disinfectant," Wilson said. "Every sack of returns
smells like perfume. And anyways, if you want to get
somewhere in this world, you've got to push. Now, look at
me. I'll go anywhere and work at any job that pays. And
you know why? Because I'm studying. Look at this." He
pointed to the radio transmitter. "Now, this is on loan to
me from the American Home Radio and Television En-
gineers College, That's a low-power broadcasting trans-
mitter. I bet you didn't know that radio and TV repairs is
one of the fastest-growing industries on this whole
"No, I didn't."
"Well, it's a fact. Now, once I get my diploma as a
graduate of the A.H.R. and T., I can pick up fifty a week
in my spare time. At least, that's what the ad says."
"It sounds very good."
Wilson put his finger into a second smoke ring. "Right.
But when I make that extra jack, know what I'm going to
do? Invest in German cameras. And then I start studying
another course. How to be a magazine photographer.
Now, there's the life! Movie stars posing for you, flying in
planes all around the world, meeting all kinds of person-
alities. How do you like that?"
"Yes," Coffey said. "That sounds interesting, I suppose/*
"You suppose? I'm telling you. Now, you take me,
that's why I can move anywheres I want. I'm mobile, see.
And I don't miss my fun. Any time I feel like it, I just
check into a hotel, buy a quart of liquor and ask the
bellboy to send a pig up."
"Right. Why jump in the ocean, eh? I mean, look at
you, you're tied down, you can't go no place unless you
bring the wife along. And because you're tied down you
got no ambitions, right?"
"My wife just left me," Coffey said.
"Well then, what are you worrying about? Big guy like
you, whyn't you come up North with me, you'll get hired
right away. Look " Wilson bounded up from his crouch
on the bed and struck a strong-man pose. Large knobbly
muscles lumped out all over his back. "I had to work to
get like you are," he said. "I done it on a home gym set in
Toronto. Built myself up from a runt to a Mr. Junior Hon-
orable Mention. That's what I mean about getting ahead.
You see, I was doing this home study course. There's a
place in Chicago gives you a diploma that guarantees you
a job as a private investigator any place in the States.
Well, I done fine in the test, but I failed the physical. So
I took this body-building course and, like I say, I built
myself up to a Mr. Junior Honorable Mention. That's
"But why didn't you become a private detective?"
"Bad timing," Wilson said. "When I wrote back to the
college in Chicago they said I was too late. All the private
eye licenses was given out for that year and they want me
to do the course over again. Well, eff that, I said. So I
started this TV course, instead. I mean" and he leaned
over and gripped Coffey 's arm "I mean . . . Say, your
deltoids are like dead mice, you want to build them up.
. . . Anyways, as I was saying, you got to keep moving,
do whatever comes along. Now, how about coming up
North with me next week?"
"Well, I I what was this truck-driving job you
"Oh, that job. You want to take that instead? You could
make more money up North, you know."
"Yes. . . . But my wife ... I have a little girl here.
Perhaps I'd better stay here."
"Okay, suit yourself. Now, let's see. . . ." Wilson
scrambled around under the bed once more and came up
with a writing pad and a ball-point pen. "He-ere we are/'
Busily he began to write, his lips moving as he formed
large childish letters on the paper.
Coffey looked at him. Here was a single man, a free
man who next Monday would head up to Blind River; a
man who could still dream youth's dreams, who could see
himself as a magazine photographer traveling over the
world, meeting beautiful girls, living life's adventures. It
was an old dream of Coffey's; one he'd started to dream at
the age of fifteen. And the men's magazines, the mail-
order courses, the talk of women as an inanimate pleasure
to be enjoyed as you would enjoy a drink, the room
jammed with evidences of boyish schemes, boyish pur-
suits yes, it was familiar. A world of toys.
Yet Wilson was no longer a boy. The thin neck was
clawed with age; there were gray streaks in the long un-
tidy locks of hair; the hands were veiny, stippled with
telltale brown moles. Was manhood what Wilson had
"There we are," Wilson said, folding the paper. "Now
you take this over to the bossman this aft. And write me
out an IOU for five bucks, right?"
Coffey took the pen and wrote that he owed you, War-
ren K. Wilson, the sum of five dollars, signed J. F. COFFEY.
They exchanged slips of paper.
"See?" Wilson said. "I knew we could make a deal if we
talked things over. That's human relations for you. Now,
here's my address up North. I'm trusting you to send me
the dough, okay?"
They shook hands on it; boys crossing their hearts. In
the corridor, alone again, Coffey looked at the slip of
TINY ONES Depot,
1904 St. Donat Street.
Dear Mr. Mountain:
Here is a friend of mine, very relible driver who has lots
of experince in driving trucks and making deliveres and
has part time night job which would suit you if you take
him on 8 to 4 on my old shift.
W. K. Wilson
He put the piece of paper in his pocket. At least it was
true that he could drive a truck. It was worth a try. With
two jobs, he'd have enough money to support her and
Paulie. And that was what mattered now. For after a
morning's freedom, one thing was clear. It was too late to
begin again, alone.
The small office at the rear of the TINY ONES depot was
decorated with a large lumber products calendar show-
ing a young woman, her skirts entangled in a fly-fisher-
man's cast. Her hands had gone up to shield the O of hor-
ror her pretty mouth made, instead of readjusting the
resultant deshabille. It seemed to Coffey as he stood be-
neath this calendar that the pretty girl's embarrassment
perfectly mirrored his own.
Underneath the calendar sat Mr. Stanley Mountain,
his enormous weight severely testing a stout swivel chair.
His most noticeable moving part was a stomach, large as a
regulation basketball, which bobbed regularly up and
down, straining against his very clean white shirt and his
yellow felt braces. His head of hair, white as detergent,
bent in perusal of Wilson's note.
"Show me your driver's license," he said.
Coffey showed it.
"You a vet?"
"Yes," Coffey said. It was so bloody hard to explain
about the Irish Army.
"R.C.A.F. transport officer myself," Mr. Mountain said.
"And let me tell you I still run things by the book. . . .
A small man in white overalls put his head around the
"Corp, take this man out to the yard, give him a truck.
"Right now, sir?"
So Coffey followed Corp out into the snow and was
introduced to a small closed van which bore a picture of
Winston Churchill, neatly diapered, and the legend:
TINY ONES. "Drive her across the yard and park her be-
tween the two vans on the far side," Corp said.
Coffey did this without difficulty, then waited as Corp
joined him. "Have a smoke, Paddy," Corp said. "Never
mind about the rest of it. I just passed you."
"Thanks very much."
"I mean," Corp said "I mean, I don't go for this service
bull. Who does he think he is? The war's over, you know.
I mean, you got to help other people," he went on, be-
coming, Coffey thought, quite upset. "I mean, you're out
of work, Paddy, right? Probably got a wife and kids to
support, right? Well then, good luck to you. Now here
give him this card. Finish your smoke. Then go on back/'
Coffey finished his cigarette as told, crossed the yard
again and gave the card to Mr. Mountain. Unconsciously,
he assumed atten-shun! as he waited to hear Mr. Moun-
"Check," said Mr. Mountain. "You're assigned, then, on
a three-week trial. Terms of duty Monday to Saturday.
Hours of duty o-eight hundred hours to sixteen hun-
dred hours. Truck to be checked and presented to your re-
lief at sixteen-ten. Morning check-out inspection o-seven-
fifty hours. Now, double on back to Corp and get your
"Right, sir," Coffey said. "Thank you, sir." Involuntar-
ily, he wagged Mr. Mountain the old salute. Mr. Moun-
tain seemed pleased.
"Carry on, Coffey," he said.
A battle-dress jacket; a military cap with a badge which
read TINY ONES; a machine for making change; a pair of
sky-blue trousers and a pair of knee-length rubber boots.
He signed for all, followed Corp into the locker room and
began to try them on. Off went his Tyrolean hat, his hack-
ing jacket, his gray tweed trousers and brown suede boots.
On the bench they lay, the last remains of Ginger Coffey.
On went the uniform, anonymous and humiliating. He
thought of the first time he had worn a uniform, as a
private in the Regiment of Pearse; still a boy, still dream-
ing of wars, battles and decorations. And of the last time
he took off his uniform on the day of his discharge. Of the
relief he had felt then, knowing that it had all been a
waste, that never again would he willingly become a
number, a rank, a less than a man.
The uniform fitted him perfectly.
"Okay," Corp said. "You'll do. Take them off and stow
them in your locker. Now you're a regular member of the
Six The TINY ONES depot was in the east end of the
city. To return to the Tribune lie must walk a long way. As
he started off, the sun moved west, unadmitted by the pall
clouds which all day had curtained the frozen river and
the city islanded within it. Thermometers outside banks
and filling stations began to fall. Four forty-five. Office
workers, waiting release as the minute hand moved slowly
towards the hour, looked at the darkness beyond their
windows and saw edges of frosting begin to mist the
panes. While below, approaching the financial district,
saving the price of a bus, Coffey hurried on.
Five o'clock. In the financial district the street lights
flared. Down came the office workers, spilling out into
the streets, released, facing the freezing bus terminal
waits, the long, slow-stopping journey home. Uptown
they turned in their hundreds while down he went, down,
still hurrying, no sandwiches in his pocket for the night's
break, his night's work not yet begun.
Five-thirty. It grew colder. A policeman in fur hat and
black greatcoat shuffled like a dancing bear under the
harsh arena light of a traffic intersection. White mitt paw
invited Coffey to cross. Crossing, Coffey scurried along
the outer rim of light, raising his right hand to the police-
man, giving the old salute.
Five-forty. On a corner, three blocks from the Tribune
building, the red traffic light called: halt. Winded, Cof-
fey waited, knowing he would be in time. In a newspaper
kiosk an old woman, squatting on her kerosene heater,
rose to serve a commuter, red-raw fingers fumbling in
woolen mitts as she made change. The newspaper pass-
ing to the commuter's hurried clutch headlined a vaguely
familiar word, which made Coffey crossing on amber
half-stop in the darkness, then walk close to the com-
muter, trying to read what it said. On the opposite pave-
ment the commuter, unfurling the newspaper, shook it
out. CoflFey read, and moved away; last lap, going through
the Tribunes revolving doors . . .
Cripple Mate Case:
WIFE TELLS COURT
"I DID IT FOR LOVE"
The elevator came and he rode up, thinking it should
be Cripple Mate who told court he did it for love: Cripple
Mate who tomorrow would climb into a fancy dress uni-
form and go out to collect dirty nappies in proof of his
love. Cripple Mate who, in one day on his onlie-oh, had
more than doubled his earning power and who, no mat-
ter what she might have done with long drinks of water
called Grosvenor, still loved her enough to want her back.
Oh, he'd make her eat her words, so he would. She would
never call him selfish again.
"Fourth floor. Editorial."
Seven minutes to six. CoflFey hurried into the Tribune
cafeteria, rejecting supper in favor of a phone call. He
called Grosvenor's flat, for Grosvenor would know where
to find her. The number was busy. He waited, then dialed
again. Still busy. At one minute to six it was still busy;
still busy when the composing room bell rang, forcing
him once again to abandon the facts of his life for the
facts of the world.
When the ten o 'clock supper break came, he hurried to
the cafeteria booth, still unfed, still trying. He spent the
fifteen-minute break trying to reach Grosvenor in his flat,
at the Press Club, and at three other places he remem-
bered as Grosvenor's haunts. No luck. The bell rang.
Back to work. And still, oh God! he had not reached
her, had not told her his news, had not been able to show
what Cripple Mate could do.
At one A.M., the work over, he took the elevator down
to the lobby, waited until Fox and the others had gone,
then entered a pay phone booth under the Tribune clock.
The lobby was quiet. Outside the phone booth an old
night cleaner swabbed the terrazzo floors with a wet mop
as Coffey, for the umpteenth time that evening, inserted
his dime and dialed the number of Grosvenor's apart-
ment. The number was busy. Hooray! Grosvenor was on
the phone to someone maybe to her? Giving her a
lover s good-night chat; sleep well, my lovely. Meantime,
until the lovey-dovey chat was over, Cripple Mate must
cool his heels.
Steady as she goes, Coffey warned himself. Wait a full
five minutes so you won't be disappointed. And wait he
did, smoking the last of his fags, watching the old cleaner
slop the slimy, sudsy mop over the terrazzo flooring, wet-
ting the inlaid letters : THE MONTREAL TRIBUNE.
At one-ten he watched the jerky minute hand com-
plete its last revolution and again inserted his dime.
Brrp-brrp-brr-brrp Oh, rot your blabbering liver-lipped
gob! By the holy, it was time someone put a stop to this.
He replaced the receiver, dialed the operator and asked if
FEnrose 2921 was out of order.
"Just one moment, sir, Til check."
Another wait. Tm afraid the receiver has been left off
the stand, sir."
And why would the phone be off the hook? So that a
certain Gerry Grosvenor would not be disturbed. Well,
any man any man was justified in disturbing that,
no matter how late it was. Out he ran into the icy streets,
down one block, down another and there little in-
terior lights lit, drivers slumped over newspapers a
black snake of taxis lay in wait for nightbirds near the en-
trance to a hotel. No time for economy now. In went
Cripple Mate and gave the address, sitting forward, si-
lently willing the driver to hurry as the cab moved off, its
tire chains rattling on the hard-packed snow, going up the
mountain to Grosvenor's place.
Gerald Grosvenor lived in an apartment development
opposite a large cemetery. Ten times as many people
were located in the apartment development as in the
graveyard, which was very much larger in area. There-
fore, slithering and twisting in the snowy drives among a
huddle of enormous neo-Georgian buildings, Coffey's
driver twice lost his way. It was five minutes to two when,
his cab finally dismissed, Coffey found himself in the
foyer of Grosvenor's building. To enter he must ring a
bell beside Grosvenor's name plate. Grosvenor, alerted,
must press a buzzer which electrically opened the foyer
door. But if Coffey rang the bell, he would give Grosvenor
a chance to slip Veronica out by the back way. And if
Veronica were not there he would waken Grosvenor and
would seem to Grosvenor a blithering fool. So he stood,
irresolute. Maybe he should go away. Flute! He didn't
want to find Vera there. And besides, she wasn't that sort
of woman; she'd never leave Paulie alone in some board-
inghouse while she ... or would she? What did he
know about her, after all?
Just then a late-returning tenant came up behind him
and unlocked the foyer door. Coffey grabbed the door,
met the tenant's suspicious stare with an apologetic
smile and slipped in behind him, beginning the long climb
to the fourth floor, remembering that curiosity killed the
cat. And that if he were wrong he would look like an id-
But on he went in a curious mixture of wrath and
shame. Went on, forcing himself into doing something
his whole nature cried out against. Making a fuss, acting
the loony, exposing himself to a stranger's scorn. On the
fourth floor he paused, looking at the numbers: 81, 83,
85. He turned to the other side: 84. There were no over-
shoes or rubbers outside the door, though it was the cus-
tom for visitors to leave them in the corridor. Ah, she
wasn't there at all: he was imagining things. Turn around
now and go home. Ring Grosvenor in the morning. You'll
find her tomorrow.
But just then a small man in a dressing gown came out
of Number 80 carrying an empty gin bottle and the
wreckage* of a box of potato chips. The man went to the
incinerator slot at the end of the hall, passing Coffey with
a suspicious stare, a stare which implied that Coffey
might be up to no good; that Coffey had no business in
the corridor; that he was loitering with some thievish in-
And that stare, from a total stranger, made Coffey turn
around and ring the bell of Number 84. Reassured, the
small man turned and went back into his own apartment.
Someone stirred inside Number 84. Someone was coming.
Someone fiddled with a chain. Veronica's voice whis-
pered: "Who's that?"
Coffey had rung the bell out of funk, out of fear of a
stranger. Now, he drew back as though he had been
slapped, his lips tight under the curve of his mustache.
Again her voice whispered: "Who's that?"
But Grosvenor for it was Grosvenor who stood there
with her, it must be! Grosvenor waited behind that
door, probably holding his finger to his lips, cautioning
her to silence.
A loud buzzer noise sounded behind the door. Down
four floors in the night silence of the hall the buzzer rang
again, repeating the sound. They thought he was down-
stairs; that was it. Now they would open the door and
Grosvenor would peep out, trying to see who was coming
The door did not open. Again, they pressed the buzzer,
shaking in their shoes, the pair of them. Oh, he would
bloody well kill them!
But in that moment, waiting there, he remembered
why he had rung the bell. He remembered that he would
have gone away. Oh, God, was it any wonder his wife was
behind that door with another man? What was the mat-
ter with him that he wanted to avoid a scene? What was
But what's the matter with her, he thought. -Why is it
always me that's in the wrong? Oh, for God's sake, woman,
what are you doing in there? Come home, for God's sake,
you fool; how could you do this to me and Paulie?
You were mine, you swore it, for richer or for poorer,
for better or for worse, until death. Until death, do you
And as though she heard, she opened the door.
"Ginger!" she said. "Do you realize what time of night
Did he what? Well now, didn't that beat the band? In
her dressing gown and nightie, her feet bare, the brazen
bloody nerve of her!
He pushed past her. "Where's Grosvenor?" he asked.
"Hiding in the kitchen?"
"Gerry's not here. And shhl You'll wake Paulie."
"Shh" she said again. She followed him into Grosve-
nor's living room, a bare, bachelor place with white walls,
prints of Chinese horses and a long low bench of high
fidelity equipment. She motioned to a wicker and iron
chair. "Sit down. Shh. Gerry lent us his place. He's stay-
ing with a friend. The room I booked for us wasn't
ready. Now, for goodness* sake, take that look off your
"Where's Paulie?" he said. "Where is she?"
"In there. Don't wake her."
But he walked out of the living room and opened the
door she had indicated. He switched on the light. In a
strange bed, clutching Bunkie, her nightdress-case doll,
his daughter slept. He bent over her, saw her twitch, wake,
and sit up.
"Daddy? What are you doing here?"
"I told you not to wake her," Veronica said.
He stared at his daughter's face, still drowsy with sleep,
at her fair reddish hair in tiny steel clips, at her breasts
pulling tight against the buttoned pajama top. Soon she
too would be a woman. She too would leave for a
"Are you satisfied?" Veronica said. "Go back to sleep,
She switched out the light and shut Paulie's door. "Do
you realize it's three in the morning, and that I have to
go to work at nine?"
He followed her back into the living room. So she had
to work, had she? Wait till she heard how he was work-
"Vera, there's something I want to tell you."
"It's the middle of the night, Ginger. I want to go back
"Vera, I have two jobs now. I'm earning a total of a
hundred and ten dollars a week. And Vera are you
listening to me?"
"What?" she said crossly.
"I said I have two jobs. I can well afford to support us
She sighed, in swift exasperation.
"And I've left the apartment and I'm bunked in at the
"That's nice for you. Now, I really want to go to sleep,
"But wait wait till I tell you. I'll give you both pay
checks next Friday. Every penny, mind you. You could
make any conditions you like. I won't even ask you to
sleep in the same room."
She began to cry. He got up, went over, put out his
hand to touch her shoulder. She moved away, leaving his
"Listen to me," he said. "I may have been selfish in the
past and I may not have made the best fist of things. But
listen even though I'm not the best husband in the
world, I know this much. Nobody loves you more than I
do, Kitten. Nobody. No matter what you may think, or no
matter what Grosvenor tells you, he couldn't love you the
way I do."
"You say you love me," she said. "Just because you miss
me. Well, you'd miss a servant if she'd been looking after
you for fifteen years. That's not love."
"Isn't it? Ah, for God's sake, woman, what do you know
about it? Love isn't going to bed with the likes of Gerry
"Then what is it, Ginger? Tell me. You're the expert, it
"Well . . . Well dammit, Veronica, we're a family,
you and me and Paulie. That's why we have to stick to-
gether, no matter what."
He saw her bow her head. Her hand went up to her
face; long fingers shielded her eyes, as though she prayed.
Oh, Vera, he thought. How and under what mortal sky
could you ever believe that you and Grosvenor will be as
you and I have been? How could you have forgotten that
life agreement we made fifteen years ago in Saint Pat's in
Dalkey, me in a rented morning suit, a stiff collar choking
me, praying to God Tom Clarke hadn't mislaid the ring,
and you in white, your head bowed as now, kneeling be-
fore the altar Love oh, come on home now, and
let's stop all this nonsense!
She removed the shield of her hand and he saw her
eyes: bright; fixed in hate. "So love is staying together
for Paulie's sake?" she said. "No thanks, Ginger."
"Ah now, wait. I've changed, honest to God I have.
Listen do you know what this new job is? It's putting
on a uniform and going about delivering babies' nappies
and bringing back the messy ones. Now, if I was as self-
ish as you say, would I do the like of that? Would I, Vera?"
"I'm not going to listen to you. Oh, I knew you'd come
back with some story. I knew it. It's not fair."
"But it's no story. It's the truth."
"All right," she said. "So it's true. Well, I'm sorry. And
that's the trouble."
"Vera, would you for the love of God give over talking
"I mean I'm sorry for you, Ginger. But that's all. You're
not going to catch me again. You're too late with this,
just as you've been too late with everything else."
"Too late am I?" Coffey said. "Maybe you're too late.
Grosvenor's five years younger than you. We'll see how
long this lasts."
"Yes, he is five years younger. You've used up the best
years of my life, that's why."
"What about my best years, Vera? Suffering J! What
about my best years?"
"All right. Then why don't we try to save the years we
have left? Why don't we get a divorce?"
"Divorce?" He felt his heart pull and thump in his
chest. "You're a Catholic," he said. "What's your mother
going to say about the sin of divorce?"
"Don't you preach religion at me, Ginger Coffey, you
that haven't darkened a church door since you came out
here. Don't you talk about Catholics. What's wrong with
you is that you never were a Catholic; you were too self-
ish to give God or anyone else the time of day. Oh, you
may think I'm like you now, and I am. I never pray. But
once I did. Once I was very holy, do you remember? I
cried, Ginger. I cried when Father Delaney said that un-
less we stopped practicing birth control he'd refuse us the
sacraments. Do you remember that? No, you never think
of that any more, do you? But I do. You changed me,
Ginger. What I am now has a lot to do with what you
made me. So don't you talk sin to me, don't you dare!
Sins Oh, let me tell you. Once your soul is dirty, then
what difference in the shade of black?"
Trembling, she took one of Grosvenor's cigarettes out of
a jar and, in a gesture familiar as one of his own, tapped it
on the back of her hand before picking up a lighter off the
table. The lighter was initialed G.G.
"Daddy?" a voice said at the door. Paulie, her pajama
trousers crumpled like accordion pleats around her calves,
her sleepy eyes blinking in the bright light, came into the
"Paulie," Veronica said, "you go back to bed this in-
stant, do you hear?"
"Did you hear me, miss?" Veronica said.
"I'm not an infant, Mummy," Paulie said. "I've got a
right to be here."
"Go to bed!"
"No, I want to talk to Daddy."
"Yes, Pet," Coff ey said. "What is it?"
Paulie began to cry. "I don't want to stay here. I don't
want to stay with them."
"With who?" Coffey said. "With who, Pet?"
But Paulie, still weeping, turned to her mother, woman
to woman, bitter, betrayed. "You said it would be just the
two of us. Just you and me. You said I was grown-up now.
I'm not going to be sent to bed every night like an infant,
just because you want to let Gerry in the back door."
"You little sneak," Veronica said. "That's enough. You'll
do what you're told."
"You're not in charge of me!" Paulie screamed. "Daddy
is. Daddy's in charge of me, not you. I want to go with
"Do you now?" Veronica said. "Well, Daddy's living at
the Y.M.C.A., aren't you, Daddy? No girls allowed, isn't
that right, Daddy?"
Coffey did not look at her. He went to his daughter,
taking her by the wrists. "Oh, Pet," he said. "Do you re-
ally want to come with me?"
She was trembling. She did not seem to see him, to feel
his hands. "I can choose whoever I like," she said, wildly.
"You're my father, not Gerry Grosvenor. I'm not going to
be sent to bed just because she wants to see Gerry. It's not
"Of course it's not," Coffey said. "Now listen, Pet. If
you want to come, I'll find us a place tomorrow. I promise
you. I'll find us a place, don't you worry."
"Will you, Ginger?" Veronica said.
"Yes, I will. Don't laugh. I will!"
But she was not laughing. She turned to Paulie. "You
say I broke my promise to you/' she said. "But what about
your father's promises? This promise he's making now,
he'll break it. Ask him. Go on, ask him. How is he going to
get a place for you tomorrow?"
"I don't have to listen to you," Paulie said. "Daddy's go-
ing to take me, aren't you, Daddy?"
He looked at the carpet, his thumb absently grooving
the part in his mustache, hating that stupid foolish man
who once again had shown him his own true image. Vera
was right: his promises were worthless currency. How
could he make Paulie know that this time he meant it?
"Listen, Pet," he said. "What your mother says is true,
in a way. But I have two jobs and as soon as they pay me,
I'll have plenty of money, plentyl Now, listen if you
can wait until next Friday, I swear to you on my word of
honor that I'll find a place for us. A nice place. If you'll
"Of course I'll wait," Paulie said. But she did not look
at him; proud of her rebellion, she stared at Veronica.
"Thank you, Pet," he said. "Now, would you go into
your room for a while? I want to talk to your mother."
Paulie went away: they heard her bedroom door shut.
He looked at Veronica, thinking that, after all, this was a
crush Vera had, it was well, it was a sort of illness. It
was up to him to try to make her see sense before it was
too late. "Listen to me," he said. "If I were you I'd put on
my thinking cap tonight and wonder what's going to hap-
pen if you go through with this lunatic performance. Re-
member, if you change your mind, you can come back to-
morrow. I promise you there'll be no questions asked and
no recriminations. We'd just forget this ever happened."
"Oh, go away," she said. "Go away."
He picked up his little hat from between his feet, went
unsteadily into the hall and knocked on Paulie's door.
When Paulie answered, he took her arm and led her to the
front door. As he passed a table with a telephone on it, he
saw that the receiver jarred slightly on its cradle. That
was why the phone had not answered. He replaced the
receiver, then said in a whisper: "All right, Apple. I'll
come for you next week."
"Wait," Paulie said. "Here's the address and phone
number of the place we're going to. When you're ready to
come and get me, phone and leave a message. And
"Daddy, promise you won't let me down."
He took her in his arms and crushed her against him.
There, in the living room, his wife sat alone, sick with
some madness he could not understand. He held Paulie
and she put her pale cheek up to be kissed. "Word of
honor, Pet," he whispered. "Word of honor."
Seven First, park the truck, making sure that you are
not beside a fire hydrant or in a no-parking area. Then
check your book, Mrs. What'shername, how many dozen
last week, how many this week. Then find her parcel, hop
down in the morning cold, ring the doorbell, smile as she
opens, and make change from your leather sporran. Thank
you, Madam. Receiving in turn her apologetic smile as she
hands over the long string sack containing her offspring's
soilings. Then down the path, sky the sack into the back of
the van and on to the next customer.
That first morning was a Saturday. So, although he was
slow on the deliveries and late back at the TINY ONES de-
pot, there was no panic. No proofreading that night. And
the following day, Sunday, there was proofreading, but
no TINY ONES. Monday now, that was another matter.
To begin with, by Monday morning he was stony-
broke. So when he arrived at the depot to pick up his
truck, he put out a feeler to Corp. But Corp, the soul of
friendliness until then, said: "Why should I lend you five
bucks, Paddy? After all, I don't know you from a hole in
the wall. No dice/'
No dice. Coffey had twenty cents left in his pocket. He
had not had any breakfast. And to cap it all, the first call
on that morning's run, he ran into trouble. An apartment
building it was: modern, with a plate glass door and a
sign outside which said AMBASSADOR HOUSE. Four dozen,
the order. He hopped down, hefting his brown paper par-
cel, and went in through the glass doors to check the
apartment number on the board.
"Looking for something?"
A doorman in a green coat and peaked green cap
tapped a white-gloved finger against Coffey 's chest.
"Number twenty-four?" Coffey said. "A Mrs. Clapper?"
Anger came like a sickness on the commissionaire's win-
try features. "You blind or something Tiny? Service en-
trance at the side. What's the matter with you?"
"I'm sorry, I didn't notice."
"C'mon, c'mon, you're blockin' up the hall. Take your
fuggin' dipers up the back stairs."
Outside once more, Coffey tried Veronica's trick of
counting ten. All that pushing and shoving: no need for
that, was there? After all, people only saw things when
they were on the lookout for them. He remembered when
Veronica was pregnant, he used to see dozens of pregnant
women on the streets. But not since. Well, service en-
trances were like that. Unless you were on the look-
out . . .
Calming himself with these reflections, he found the
service entrance, climbed four flights of stairs and rang
the bell at the back door of Apartment 25. A uniformed
maid opened to him. "TINY ONES," he said. "Good morn-
The maid took the package.
"That'll be two twenty, please," he said.
"Just a moment," she said. "The mistress wants to see
He stepped into the kitchen.
"Take your overshoes off," the maid said. "My floors!"
"That's all right, Anna," a woman's voice said. A well-
dressed woman, she was, too old to need TINY ONES by
the look of her. "Does your firm rent cribs?" she asked.
And flute! She was from Dublin.
"Do they rent any other baby things, could you tell
He felt his face grow hot. Not only was she Dublin, but
Stillorgan Road, Dublin, as stuck-up as all get out. "Well
no, Madam. They don't."
"Are you Irish?" she said.
"I thought I caught a Dublin accent," said she. "Have
you been over here long?"
"Ah about six months."
At that moment a younger woman (the nappy user's
Mum, he guessed) came into the room. A blonde she was,
in a tweed suit, all the latest style. Who took one look at
Coffey, her eyes getting bigger. "Oh!" she said. "Oh, I
could have sworn Excuse me staring like that. But
you're the spitting image of someone I know."
"But this man is from Dublin, Eileen," the mother said.
"Isn't that a coincidence?"
"Oh? And what's your name?" the daughter asked Cof-
fey, who wouldn't have had to ask hers. If floors could rise
up and swallow a person by the Holy, that wasn't just a
figure of speech, for she was Colonel Kerrigan's daughter,
the same girl he had danced with last winter at the Plun-
kett Old Boys' Dance in the Shelbourne Hotel. And had
served under her old man in the Army.
"My name is Cu-Crosby," he said.
"If I had a camera I'd take your picture and send a
copy to this friend of mine," she said. "You're his double,
right down to the mustache."
"Whose double?" her mother asked.
"Veronica Shannon's husband, Mother. Ginger Coffey.
Do you remember him?"
"Oh, of course/' the mother said. "Didn't he soldier
with your Daddy once upon a time? And afterwards was
in a distillery or something?"
"But they went to Canada," the mother said. "I remem-
ber Mrs. Vesey said something to me about looking Ve-
ronica up "
As the mother talked, Eileen Kerrigan's eyes met Cof-
fey's. Now, she knew. "Anyway, we mustn't keep this gen-
tleman here all day," she said, cutting her mother short.
"Anna, would you get the bag?"
"Here you are," the maid said and Suffering J, let me
out! Coffey took it and backed out of the kitchen.
"Wait. Your money."
He had to make change for a five-dollar bill, aware that
Eileen Clapper, nee Kerrigan, had informed her mother
with a look. The maid shut the door on him. Now, the tell-
ing would begin Oh yes, Mother, it could be and it is.
I'm positive Now the Air Mail letters would fly. Now it
could be told in Gath and embroidered in the Wicklow
Lounge, chuckled over in the offices at Kylemore, dis-
sected in Veronica's mother's flat. And how glorious a
comeuppance it would seem to all the voices he had fled;
how joyously they would savor each detail, the changing
of his name, the absurd uniform with TINY ONES on the
cap, the menial nature of his employment, the net result
of all his hopes. They didn't even need to embellish it:
though they would; like all Dublin stories it would lose
nothing in the telling. Yes, the whole country could laugh
at him now. He stood on the stairs and saw the whole
Ha, ha! cried all the countrified young thicks he had
gone to school with, who now, ordained and Roman-col-
lared, regularly lectured the laity on politics and love.
Ha, ha! cried the politicians, North and South, united as
always in fostering that ignorance which alone made pos-
sible their separate powers. Hah! cried the archbishops,
raising their purple skull-capped heads from the endless
composition of pastoral letters on the dangers of foreign
dances and summer frocks. Hah! cried the smug old busi-
nessmen, proud of being far behind the times. Ha, ha, ha!
Emigrate, would you? We told you so.
Their laughter died. What did it matter? What did
they matter, so long as he was not going home? And in
that moment he knew that, sink or swim, Canada was
home now, for better or for worse, for richer or for poorer,
He went down the stairs, climbed into his truck and
drove off, his tire chains rattling in the freezing slush.
What did anything matter now except his word to Paulie?
For lunch he had a ten-cent bag of peanuts and a glass
of milk. After eating it, he felt like a starving man. Money
he must have to last out until Friday. His proofread-
ing pals? Ah, weren't they all boozers, counting their
ha'pence from one payday binge to the next? To last until
Friday he would need more than the dollar loan they
might afford. He would need at least ten dollars. Ten dol-
lars required nerve. So, at the end of the day, he went to
see Mr. Mountain and nervously requested an advance on
"Advance?" Mr. Mountain's stomach heaved upwards
in alarm. "That's got to be done through channels, Coffey.
I don't handle payroll, that's G.H.Q. stuff. Top man deals
with that. And I might as well warn you that Mr. Brott
doesn't favor that procedure."
"I'm afraid 111 have to chance that, Mr. Mountain. I
have to have the money."
"Well, it's your funeral," Mr. Mountain said. "It's
strictly against standing orders. However " lie reached
for one of the many forms he designed personally in the
depot. "Here's one of my unit identification check slips/'
he said. "It shows your rank, length of service and record
in my outfit. If you want to try this, you'd better hurry.
Head Office closes at five."
Hurry was right. The office was ten streets away and he
had to shanks' mare it. So, chit in hand, with twenty
minutes to get there, he set off through the darkening
streets, wondering if he didn't win Mr. Brott's clemency
would he be able to pawn the lamp in his locker or sell
some of his clothing secondhand? How did you go about
pawning something here? Or selling clothes? But do not
worry about that yet, he told himself. Cross that bridge
when you come to it.
Shanks'-maring it at five to five, pelting down an old
street in the dock area past faded stores and warehouses
stenciled with the names of unknown and unimportant en-
terprises: Pimlico Novelties; H. Lavalee Productions; Weiss
& Schnee Imports; Wasserman Furs Ltd. And now, at
one minute to five, he shanks'-mared it into a building,
rode up in an ancient latticed elevator, came out on the
third floor and hurried down a corridor which smelled
overpoweringly of Jeyes Fluid, towards a frosted glass
TINY ONES INC.
Ring & Enter.
He rang and entered. Behind the counter which pro-
tected the office staff from the public, the desks were
empty, the typewriters hooded, the file cabinets locked.
He was late.
Still, someone must be here, he reasoned. The place was
not shut. He rapped his knuckles on the counter, notic-
ing a cubicle at the far end of the room in which a light
still burned. He knocked again.
A small man appeared at the cubicle's doorway.
"Closed," he said. "Sorry."
"But . . ." Coffey began. But what? What the hell
could he say?
The small man gave him a warning look, then shut the
cubicle door. There was a name stenciled on the shut
door, and, reading it, Coffey felt his heart pull and jump.
For wasn't this the very man he was supposed to see? A. K.
BROTT, PRES. Again, he knocked his knuckles on the
counter. The door reopened. The small man came out, an-
"I said we're closed."
"I ah I work at the depot, sir," Coffey said. "Could
I see you a moment?"
"About ah "
"Come in, come in. I can't hear you," the small man
said, going back into his cubicle.
Coffey lifted the counterleaf and advanced among the
empty desks. Inside the cubicle were several photographs
in black frames, ex-voto scenes from the life of A. K.
BROTT. Brott with wife; Brott with children; Brott with
first TINY ONES van; Brott with first automatic washer;
Brott with office staff; Brott with Chamber of Commerce
outing. Coffey had plenty of time to study them as A. K.
Brott, his shoulders hunched, whipped through the pages
of a ledger. Brott with books.
At last, he raised his small gray head. Wary eyes stud-
ied Coffey. "Well now. What's your trouble?"
"I've just started work for you as a driver, sir. I was
wondering if I might have an advance on wages?''
Driver? Unbelievingly, A. K. Brott's small eyes traveled
from the big fellow's florid mustache to his woolly-lined
coat, his tweedy legs and suede boots. What sort of people
was Mountain hiring these days? Looks like a burleycue
comedian. And that red face: a rummy? "No," said A. K.
"But it's only ten dollars, sir."
A. K. Brott's finger found a column, ran it down to a
total. "Only ten dollars?" he said. "Look at this. Off 30 per
cent from last year. And that's not because the birth rate
is down. It's not down. It's up."
He turned the pages, found another total, contorted his
small gray features as though he had been seized with a
sudden attack of indigestion. "Look at this one," he said.
"Worse. And you want ten dollars. You know what's going
to happen here in TINY ONES?"
"You're all going to be out of a job, that's what. Fifteen
years I took to build up this business, and look what's
happened. Everywhere the same. Down 20, 30, even 50
per cent on some routes. All right; you're driving a route.
Now, what is it? What's wrong?"
"What ah what do you mean?" Coffey asked.
"Disposable diapers, that's what I mean. Paper, that's
what. I mean it's a goddamn crime. There should be a
law. There is a law, forest conservation, why don't they
enforce it? And it gives the kids a rash, let me tell you, no
matter what they say, paper skins a baby's ass raw. Ask
any doctor, if you don't believe me. But it's new, and
that's what people want, something new. Something easy.
Now, you meet the customers on your route. Admit it.
They're asking you for paper diapers, aren't they?"
"You're a liar."
Coffey felt as though his face had been slapped. "I'm
not a liar/' he said.
"No? Well, come on then, wise guy. What do they
What indeed? Coffey wondered. But if he was to get
his advance, he must talk to this loony. Say something.
What was it Eileen Kerrigan's mother had asked him for
"Well, as a matter of fact," Coffey said. "What most
mothers want is to rent other things besides diapers."
"Cribs and and bassinets and and prams and so
"Sit down/' Mr. Brott said. "What's your name?"
"Well, go on. Let's hear it. If it's good, you won't be
sorry, I promise you that."
Coffey stared at Mr. Brott, then exhaled in astonish-
ment, his breath feathering up the ends of his large mus-
tache. Someone had asked his opinion. Memories of for-
mer years, of the District Manager of Coomb-Na-Baun
Knitwear's unpleasant smile, of Old Cleery in Kylemore
Distilleries shaking his Neanderthal skull ah, so many
head men all unwilling to hear his ideas. Yet now, when
he'd least expected it, here was a head man waiting. What
could he say? He began to speak, making it up as he went.
"Well, sir," he said. "A lot of families are small nowadays.
I mean, they have one or two children, and buying prams
and bassinets and cribs is an expensive proposition for
them. I remember in my own case, we only have one girl,
and so we had to give all that stuff away when she was
finished with it. Even the pram, which was in tiptop con-
dition. I just think if we could have rented those things,
we'd have saved money/'
"Mnn . . . hmm . . ." Mr. Brott said. "Go on."
"So ah If you rented those things, sir? Rent a crib,
for instance "
"Rent-a-Cribl" Mr. Brott said. "You think of that name
"Ah yes, sir." What name was he talking about?
"Rent-a-Crib. . . ." Mr. Brott closed his eyes and sat
for a long moment, as though trying to solve some prob-
lem in mental arithmetic. "I don't say it's without merit,"
he said. "What's your name again?"
"And you're a driver? You don't look like a driver."
"I'm a New Canadian, sir. This is just a temporary job.
I have a night job as well. But the trouble is, sir, I've just
started in both jobs, and haven't received any salary as
yet. So that's why I came to see you about the advance,
"Ten dollars, sir. If possible."
Mr. Brott shook his head.
"I mean, I could sign a receipt. I've earned more than
ten dollars already. Couldn't you manage . . . ?"
Still headshaking, Brott took out his wallet and handed
CoflFey a ten-dollar bill. "Advance nothing," he said. "You
take it as a bonus. So you work at two jobs, eh? You know
that reminds me of me when I was a young fellow. Ambi-
tious, I was. How do you like Canada, Coffey?"
"I like it, sir. Very go-ahead country."
"And you'll do well here, CoflFey, you know that? You're
a go-ahead fellow yourself. New Canadian, are you? Bet
you never went to college, eh?"
"Yes, sir, I did, sir."
"You did? Yet you're working as a delivery man. That's
the spirit. Kids nowadays, they go to college, they think
the world owes them a living. But it doesn't. I tell my
Sammy that. I say to him, Sammy, you can have all the
degrees in the world, they're no substitute for one good
idea. What do you think, Coffey? Am I right?"
Coffey thought that A. K. Brott was not such a bad old
geezer, after all.
"Yes, you're the kind we need over here," Mr. Brott
said. "Of course, this particular idea might not work.
Might fail. Probably would fail. Lots of overhead on
maintenance, that's one problem. Disinfecting the equip-
ment; repainting; repairs; eh?"
"Yes, sir," Coffey said. "I suppose there would."
"And then the pads, baby blankets, sheets, all that
stuff? You figure on renting that too?"
"Well, why not, sir? You have a laundry. It would be
just like diapers, wouldn't it?"
"That's right," Mr. Brott said. "Cleaning tie-in. Yes,
you're all right, Coffey, you know that? If you've got any
more ideas, why you just come right up here and we'll
talk it over. Okay? Nice meeting you."
Pleased, confused, hungry for some supper, late be-
cause it was five-thirty now and he must rush, Coffey
stood up, smiled at Mr. Brott and wagged him the old
salute. "Good-by, sir," he said. "And thank you, sir."
"Don't mention it," Mr. Brott said. "And you just keep
that ten bucks, that's a bonus. Now, turn off the lights in
the main office and shut the door when you go out."
He switched off the lights, he shut the door. He hurried
downstairs, hungry but content. Nice old geezer. It re-
newed your faith in Canada, meeting a man like that, a
man who thought you were a go-ahead fellow. And he
was a go-ahead fellow, dammit; he was no glorified secre-
tary, no joeboy. He had been right to emigrate, no matter
what. Tomorrow, he would find some place for Paulie and
him to live, and at the end of the week he would ask Mac-
Gregor for a raise. In a week or two he would be pro-
moted. There was always a bright side: you just had to
look for it, that was all. It was still uphill, but, with a little
victory now and then, you could keep on running. As long
as you had hopes. And he still had hopes.
Eight "Miss Pauline Coffey?" said the girl at the
desk. "Yes, if you'll just take a seat over there, sir. Won't
be a moment."
"Thank you,'* Coffey said. He sat in the strange lobby
and watched the girl a nice little piece in a pony-tail
hairdo and a pink angora sweater go upstairs in search
of his daughter. He read a sign over the staircase: RESI-
DENTS ONLY: No GENTLEMEN ALLOWED. Which meant
that Grosvenor was barred too. He was glad of that.
Still, it was strange to think that his wife and daughter
were living upstairs in this place and that he, their legal
husband and father, could not go up. Not that Veronica
would be up there at the moment. Oh no. Because, you
see, Veronica never came back from work until half past
five. No, it was not unfair, or sneaky. Hadn't Veronica
taken Paulie away from him in just that way? It was
only tit for tat.
He had promised Paulie. He had kept his promise. Fri-
day it was; here he was, a taxi at the door, a little flat
rented, everything as planned. And now, as he watched
the staircase, he saw the girl in the fuzzy pink sweater
start down again, carrying two untidy bundles of posses-
sions. Behind the pretty girl, his own Paulie, wearing
sloppy white socks and saddle shoes, her winter overcoat a
bit shrunken at the wrists and hems. He made a note to
buy her a new coat. He went to her and kissed her pale
cheek. "Hello, Apple."
"Be careful, Daddy, you'll make me spill this stuff."
"Til take it," he said. "I have a taxi outside."
"Wait, Daddy." She put her things down in the hall.
"We can't go yet."
"Mummy came home. She found out, I don't know
how. She's upstairs pressing my good dress. She'll be
down with it in a minute."
"Oh?" he said.
"I'll put this stuff in the taxi, Daddy. You stay here. I
think she wants to talk to you."
"All right, Apple." She was not going to take his Apple
from him now: not after he had worked like a dog all
week to get things ready. Just let her try.
He walked towards the stairs, ready to repel the enemy,
and as he did the enemy appeared on the landing
above, carrying Paulie's party dress over her arm. He
watched her come down, seeing not his wife but a
stranger: a stranger who was more exciting to him than
the woman who had been his wife. She had changed her
hair style, and her dark hair, now cut short, fitted her
face like a helmet. She wore more make-up and a dress he
had never seen. He tried to imagine the familiar body be-
neath that dress; the full breasts with their large bruised
nipples, the full thighs which swelled out of her slender
waist, the familiar small mole beneath her ribcage. But it
did not work: how could he imagine the body of this total
stranger who now came towards him, smelling of an un-
familiar perfume? Was this what falling in love with
Grosvenor had done to her changed her from wife to a
beauty he would have envied any man's possessing? With
shame, he realized that were she not his wife, he would
preen and think of flirting with her; might even fall in
But when she spoke, she was Vera; no change. "Hello,
Ginger," she said. "Could we go into the lounge a mo-
ment? I want to speak to you."
Yes. She was Vera and yet she was not. Again a stran-
ger, as he followed her into the small lounge and shut the
door so that they might be alone. But Vera once more
as she handed him Paulie's dress, saying: "I've just pressed
this. Mind you don't crush it."
He took the dress. He noticed that she was carrying her
overcoat. She swung the overcoat out as a bullfighter tests
a cape, whirling it on over her shoulders in a most un-
Vera-ish manner. She pulled a new black beret out of the
pocket and began fitting it on in front of the mirror over
the fake fireplace. Was that what a crush could do to a
person, make her exciting, a bit of a whore? What would
she say if he were to kiss her this minute?
"What sort of place have you got, anyway?" she said,
still adjusting her beret.
"It's a nice little place/' he said. "Two bedrooms, a
kitchenette and a living room. Reasonable too. Seventy a
"Does that include bedding?"
"Well, I ah I have the sheets and pillow cases
from our old beds."
"Yes, so you have." Her beret now adjusted to her satis-
faction, she began to powder her nose.
"Listen, I ah I was just wondering . . . You
you wouldn't think of coming with us?"
"No," she said, still powdering. "If Paulie had been
going to stay here, I'd have stayed. As it is, I'm moving/'
"Where?" The moment he'd said it, he knew it was a
"I've taken a cheap room," she said. "Not that it mat-
ters, as I don't suppose I'll be in it much."
She looked in the mirror to see how he had taken this.
"Matter of fact, my things are outside now. Gerry's giving
me a lift."
Again, she looked at him through the mirror. "Of
course, I'd be willing to stay on here, if you'd leave
Paulie with me?"
"Isn't that the height of you," he said, bitterly. "You
"It's no trick, Ginger. I still feel responsible for Paulie.
She's not a child any more and frankly, I don't think
you'll be able to supervise her properly."
"Who's talking," he said. "You have a bloody nerve
talking of supervising a child."
She turned from him, her face flushed, and went to the
door. She opened the door. "There's Paulie. I must say
good-by to her."
He watched her through the opened doorway of the
lounge as, impersonating his wife and Paulie's mother,
she went up to Paulie, took her by the arms, and stood
back looking the child over, as she had done a thousand
times before, sending Paulie off to a party.
"You'll have to let that hem down soon," he heard her
say. How could she say things like that, this brazen stran-
ger who was going off with another man? "Good-by, dar-
ling," he heard her say. "I'll be over to see you in a day or
two. And if there's anything you need or if there's any
trouble, you know where to find me."
Her hands reached out, took Paulie's shoulders and she
put her lips forward to kiss the child's pale cheek. ( Oh, if
those stranger lips would only kiss him! ) But he, standing
in the doorway of the lounge, saw Paulie look at him as
she drew back, suffering but not returning her mother's
kiss. Poor bloody lamb, he thought. The pair of us wolves
fighting over your body. Ah, Apple, Apple, 111 make all
this up to you; from now on you'll be the only one that
matters. Let her go; let that stranger go.
"Are you ready, Daddy?" Paulie called.
"Yes, Pet." He went up to them. "Good-by, Vera."
"Wait," she said. "I don't have your new address."
He begged a sheet of paper from the girl at the desk
and wrote the address down. Paulie went out to the wait-
ing taxi. He handed the sheet to Veronica, who folded it
and slipped it in her purse. "I'm leaving too, Miss Hen-
son," she said to the girl at the desk. "You'll forward my
mail, won't you?"
"Yes, Mrs. Coffey."
Silently he went ahead and held the door open for her.
In silence they descended the steps to the street. There,
its rear door open and Paulie inside, the taxi waited. Far-
ther up the street, on the opposite side, Coffey saw Gros-
venor's sporty little car. So she was not bluffing.
"Well?" she said. "Sure you won't reconsider?"
He saw that she was afraid. Until now, this had been a
threat. But now, she must cross the street and get into
Grosvenor's car, cross the boundary into deed. She was
afraid: she wanted to unpack and go upstairs, to go back
with Paulie to the no man's land of the last week.
And Coffey knew this: he, who so rarely knew what
her motives were, knew she was begging him to yield.
But wasn't she putting him in the wrong again, mak-
ing it seem as if he were forcing her into infidelity by
his stubbornness? He didn't want her to go, he didn't
want her in Grosvenor's bed. But dammit, he was sick of
this womanly blackmail.
"No," he said. "Go on, if you want to."
"All right. Good-by, Ginger."
And yes, by the holy, she was doing it, walking away
straight as a sword towards that bastard's car. Mad bloody
woman, crossing the street in full view of her husband
and daughter, to go off with another man. And why?
Even now, she's sure that if only she goes through with it,
111 call her back, give her Paulie, admit she's won. Mad
She reached the car. Grosvenor opened the little red
door and she settled in with a show of legs. A hot lust ran
through Coffey as the little red door shut on that view of
rucked-up skirts. There was still time to call her back,
time to bring that strange woman to his bed this very
night, time to strip those stranger clothes off her and find
beneath them a body which miraculously was his by law.
Ah dear God! Wasn't it lust that made him want to stop
her going off now? Wasn't it jealousy at Grosvenor's get-
ting her? Wasn't it? For it was not pity, it was not love.
No, it was not love.
He did not call. He stood watching, an oddly ridiculous
figure in his bulky car coat and tiny hat. The engine of
Grosvenor's car coughed to life.
"Daddy? Are you coming, Daddy?" Paulie called.
He looked at the taxi: there was one who loved him,
one on whom he had no designs. He climbed into the taxi,
shutting the door with a slam. He put his hand on Pau-
lie's knee and tried to manage a Big Bear smile. It was
starting to snow. Soft blobs of snow fell like molting down
on the cab windows as the little reel sports car, its engine
roaring, shot out and past them. Coffey and his daughter
watched it go, their gaze following it as their taxi driver
set his windshield wipers in motion. Chig-chik went the
windshield wipers, wiping all out.
Nine And so, in his fortieth year, Ginger Coffey be-
gan playing house with a fourteen-year-old girl. It re-
minded him of his first days with Veronica. Getting used
to each other took time. Keep her happy, that was it.
Promise her little treats. And soon, when things improved,
when he would have one good job instead of two poor
ones, when he was not exhausted running from pillar to
post, when he could sleep at night and not dream about
that woman soon, it would be plain sailing.
But, in the meantime, he was unsure. What did Paulie
need in the way of clothes, for instance? If he gave her
money to buy things, she was likely to go out and get
something grown-up and unsuitable. He noticed she had
taken to wearing nail polish. He mentioned it: she said all
the other kids used it. What did he know? It was wrong,
he felt, but he must not be cross. She was much alone in
the flat, so it was only natural she'd want to ask her
school friends in. But he was away day and night. What
sort of children were these friends of hers? He worried
that she was not studying enough. It was hard to scold
her; he wanted to be friends.
And so, each day on his route, he tried to think of
things that would interest her. He made plans. In a week
or two when he'd be a reporter, they'd have much more
time together. And then: "Listen, Apple, how would you
like it if we took up skiing? Wouldn't you like to ski, Pet?
And maybe this summer we'll take a little cottage on a
lake, just the two of us. We might rent a sailboat. I've al-
ways wanted to sail a boat, ever since I was a little boy.
What about you, Apple? Wouldn't you like to sail a
Ah, if she only were a boy. Or even younger. Remember
when she was a tiny girl the fun we used to have playing
games like snakes and ladders
"I was thinking I might buy a draughts board, Apple.
Give you a game on my night off, perhaps?"
But she was going to a skating party. Never mind, he
would go to a movie. Ages since he'd seen a film. Or per-
haps he would just have an early night. Two jobs could
be tiring, you know.
How tiring, he could not tell her. Each night when he
shut the door of his bedroom and undressed, he stared at
his solitary bed in an act of exorcism, telling himself he
was sleepy, dead tired, couldn't wait to hit the hay. Ex-
hausted, he would stretch out; exhausted he would at-
tempt to sleep. But he did not sleep.
An elegant, familiar stranger followed a man into the
foyer of an apartment house, followed him up four flights
of stairs, waited as he unlocked the door of Number 84,
smiling familiarly as she stepped across the threshold into
a room with bare white walls, prints of Chinese horses and
a long low bench of high-fidelity equipment. The man
drew the blinds. Music was switched on and that elegant
stranger began to remove her skirt, her blouse; walked in
garter belt and black stockings to a bar, bending over the
bottles, her new short hairdo no longer hiding the white
nape of her neck. Sick, Coffey watched as the man went
towards her. Sick, he saw the man begin to undress. . . .
Then, never mind, no, no; count sheep, dead tired,
think of Paulie, think of your promotion next week: J. F.
Coffey of the Tribune . . . Think of your brother Tom in
Africa; where is he at this minute? Think of little Michel
and his robot toy, wonder how the little tyke's getting
along. No one to play with. Think . . .
But who would ever have thought this long drink of wa-
ter would be such a Casanova? Look at him now, naked,
laughing, bending his long knobbly backbone to press a
button, releasing the couch bed which shoots out from the
wall, standing up, turning to her with the face of that
man in the Y.M.C.A. Wilson, who talked of women as
pigs. Oh God, don't watch now what Wilson is doing as
he lays her down. Who is she, anyway? Some woman you
don't know, someone you never knew, so go to sleep! Of
course she's a stranger: Vera never did the like of that
with you. You never saw the real Vera excited like that, a
Bacchante kissing his hairy flanks. No, that's not Vera,
that's some stranger with a beautiful body, a whore in
black stockings, abasing herself with that man, letting
him pour wine over her breasts, laughing like a luna-
But she is not laughing. See? She is crying. Do you see
that brown mole on her ribcage? Do you see that white
nape, her long hair? Familiar, aren't they? Your Dark
No chance to sleep, for now he must watch it all, must
hear it all, must wait through the laughing, the music, the
loud animal cries of fear and pleasure until, in the last
hours of darkness, her voice starts to tell the man who she
is, tell him how, for love, she crossed the street to get into
his little red car, how, because of her husband's foolishness,
the ticket money was spent, leaving her no choice. Telling
on and on until the first winter light grayed the ceiling of
his room, a false dawn which those two in that other room
greeted with cries of drunken delight, becoming faceless,
rolling and rolling there as he lay still, hearing them cry
love, love, love until, exhausted, they fell asleep in each
other's arms. Then he too would sleep, a short sleep, mur-
dered by the shrilling of his alarm clock. He would rise,
put on the coffee, make the toast and waken his daughter.
To sit haggard in the true dawn of his tiny kitchenette, the
lights still lit in the winter darkness, a darkness presaging
the night to come, the visions still in wait.
"Daddy, have you got a cold? You look pale/*
"No, Pet. Just tired."
"Well, no wonder, working day and ni "
"Won't be long, Pet. Matter of fact I'm doing very well
down at the Tribune. I know they're pleased with my
work there. I'm almost certain that old MacGregor's going
to promote me to reporter any day now. Then 111 be able
to drop the other job and spend more time at home. Tell
you what. As soon as I get my promotion I'll take you out
and stand you a bang-up dinner. Dress up in your best "
"Yes, but Daddy, you'd better hurry now. It's after
No faith. Her voice, like Vera's, cutting him off. Well,
she'd see. On Friday. On Friday, his ship might come in.
On Friday he hurried to the Tribune office as soon as he
had completed his delivery rounds. His pay check con-
tained no notice of changed status. So ... So, as he had
learned the Tribune style and had spent two weeks as a
galley slave, wasn't it time MacGregor was reminded
about that promotion? It was, it was indeed. He went to
MacGregor's office. As usual, the door was open. Clar-
ence, the fat man, stood on the right of MacGregor's
desk, notebook at the ready. MacGregor himself was hold-
ing a telephone conference with the Tribune's publisher.
"Right, Mr. Hound . . . Yes, sir ... Right away, Mr.
Hound. Good-by, sir/'
He replaced the receiver. His eye picked out Coffey in
the doorway. "Come in. State your business."
"Well, sir, I've been in the proofroom two weeks, as of
"You see, sir, you said that I should learn the Tribune
style. I think, sir, that I've got the hang of it now."
"Well," said Mr. MacGregor. "Nice to know somebody's
wurrking in this loafers' paradise. Good day to you, Cof-
"But but I came to see you, sir, to see if perhaps
there'd be an opening as a reporter."
"We're still short-staffed in the proofroom, aren't we,
"Very short-staffed, eh, Clarence?"
"Yes, sir. Very short."
Mr. MacGregor looked at Coffey. "We're short-staffed."
"But, sir ... I've been counting on this promotion."
"Tell him how many men want to become Tribune re-
"Dozens," Clarence said. "Literally dozens, Mr. Mac."
"So, we're not short of reporters at the moment, Coffey.
You'll have to hang on."
"But, I " Coffey felt his face hot. "But, I have a fam-
ily, sir. I mean, I can't support my family indefinitely on
a proofreader's wages."
"What are you getting now?"
"Fifty dollars a week, sir."
"I'll gi' you fifty-five. Now, go back to your wurrk."
"Thank you, sir. I'd rather have the promotion, sir. I
mean, fifty-five dollars a week is still very little."
"Did you ever hear such cheek?" Mr. MacGregor asked
Clarence, turning. "Did you ever, in your mortal life?"
Clarence looked at Coffey with shock, reproach and
disgust. But Coffey did not budge. There was a time and
a tide. "Well, sir. I . . ."
"I'd still like to know definitely when I may hope to be
made a reporter, sir/*
"How the hell do I know?" MacGregor shouted. "When
I get a replacement for you, that's when. Maybe in a week
"In two weeks, sir? I mean, is that a promise? Because
otherwise I don't see much point in my staying on."
"All right, two weeks," MacGregor said. "You have my
"Thank you, sir."
"Now, take your arse out of here. I have wurrk to do."
"Yes, sir. And thank you, sir."
Two more weeks. Still, it was better than a kick in the
pants, wasn't it? A little victory. He hurried off to the Trib-
une cafeteria, had a quick sandwich, then phoned Paulie
to tell her his good news.
"Listen, Pet. That promotion I was telling you about.
WeVe only got a fortnight to go."
"That's good," she said, in an unbelieving voice.
"Daddy Mummy was here today."
"Was she?" He had been wondering when that would
"Yes, she took me out shopping," Paulie said. "She put
down ten dollars on a new parka for me."
"But I could have bought you one, Pet. Why didn't you
tell me you needed it?"
Paulie ignored this. "Anyway, Mummy wants to come
and visit me tomorrow. She wants to see you too."
"I hope you told her we're getting along like a house on
fire, Apple? Did you?"
"Yes, Daddy. Daddy I have to hang up now. Kettle's
He fumbled, replacing the receiver. All the good had
gone out of his news with that mention of Veronica. Ah,
hadn't he been the fool to think she would let them alone?
Now she would start sneaking around to the flat behind
his back, buying Paulie presents with Grosvenor's money,
turning the child against him.
Tiny lights appeared before his eyes. He fumbled, feel-
ing for the phone booth door. For a moment he blacked
out, felt like falling. Oh, dear Lord, if anything happened
to him, what would become of Paulie? No insurance, noth-
ing. His child would have to go and live with those two;
would have to watch those things.
Steady as she goes, he warned himself. Steady now. If
you go on like this they'll come for you in a little blue van
and lock you up, so they will. Steady the Buffs. Put that
woman out of your mind once and for all. You'll have to
get rid of her.
But how? She was still his wife, the mother of his child.
Divorce her. Get custody. Divorce her!
"Paddy?" a voice said. "What's the matter?"
Uncomprehendingly, Coffey looked up, saw Fox buying
cigarettes at the cafeteria counter.
"Are you sick?" Fox said. "You look funny."
"No," he said. He joined Fox at the counter, knitting
his hands in the steeple game. Here is the church ... He
had been sick, that was it. Sick because he somehow be-
lieved he would get her back; sick because he had wanted
her back. The cure was plain: divorce her.
"Come and have a beer," Fox said. "Pay night. It'll make
you feel better."
"No," he said. "I'll be better soon. Very soon/'
That night he went to bed in peace: he would sleep, he
was sure. But the elegant stranger smiled. She sat in a res-
taurant, cigarette smoke stippling upwards in a thin spiral
past her smiling face. Coffey, watching, saw her hold out
a glass. That was not his ring on her finger. The ring with
which he had wed her was a gold ring: it had belonged to
his mother. This was a thin platinum circle, third finger,
left hand, with these presents, kiss a new bride. Friends
surrounded the newlyweds. An older woman leaned for-
ward across the wedding feast and said: "Didn't he sol-
dier with my husband once? And was something in a dis-
tillery?*' And the stranger who was once Veronica replied:
"No, he was just a Good Doggy." Someone said: "Uni-
form, would you believe it, with TINY ONES on the cap?
Diapers, it was. He delivers them to us every week. Of
course, after that first week, I always made sure it was the
maid who received him. Not to embarrass him, the crea-
ture." The wedding guests shook their heads in sympathy
and congratulated the bride on her fortunate escape.
They thought her a nice woman: they had not seen her as
he had, naked and frenzied with all those men in all those
rooms. They had not seen her walk across the street in
full view of her child and husband, showing her legs as
she stepped into her lover's little red car. In their eyes
she was a woman who had wasted her best years as wife
to a glorified secretary; a woman who had saved herself
before it was too late. She and her new husband would
take tea with Madame Pandit. They would be invited to
dinner by Louie, the Prime Minister of Canada. The
Prime Minister would ask for the signed original of a G.G.
cartoon. There would be a good little doggy in the border
of that cartoon.
He lay in the darkness waiting for that first false light
which would banish her and bring him sleep. He would
divorce her and then he would rest in peace. Do you hear
me, Vera? Don't laugh! I'm going to divorce you.
Yet, on Saturday, when the doorbell rang and Paulie
went to answer it, Coffey waited in the living room of
their little flat, his lips dry, his mouth betraying him in a
hopeful smile. And when she came in, wearing a new and
unfamiliar hat, he was gripped once more with a painful
sense of loss. Look how strange we are to each other, all of
us. Even Paulie, Paulie who takes her mother's coat to
hang in the closet and now, formal hostess, asks if we
would like some tea.
"Yes, that would be lovely/' Veronica said. And Paulie
withdrew, the mistress of the house, while Veronica, a
guest, waited to be entertained.
"Small, isn't it?" she said, looking around.
He did not answer.
"And how are you getting along, Ginger? I mean at
He said stiffly that he had received a raise; that in two
weeks he would be a reporter. Everything was grand,
"But in the meantime these jobs must leave you very lit-
tle time to spend with Paulie?"
"We manage," he said. "And it won't be for long. How
are you getting on, Veronica?"
"Oh, I like my job very much. The woman who owns
the shop speaks French but her English is poor. So we
complement each other. As a matter of fact I made over
sixty dollars with commissions last week. That's why I'm
buying Paulie a new coat."
"I could have bought it."
"Ah, but you didn't, did you? And besides, I like doing
things with my own money, Ginger. After all these years
it's such a marvelous feeling to be solvent."
He did not reply because, at that moment, Paulie came
in with the tea tray. He noticed a box of assorted biscuits
beside the teapot. Vera's favorites. In the time he and Pau-
lie had been together, had she ever bought one of Dad-
dy's favorite treats? No, she had not; and, watching the
pair of them, listening to their womany voices, he felt
alone, shut out, the heavy-fingered male. Listen to them,
would you, chatting away like two old pals at a charity
bazaar; Veronica going on about this bloody hatshop she
worked in and Paulie regaling her with tales about the
teachers at school, not seeming to know or care that her
mother was a stranger who now had no mortal interest in
Paulie and her school. Whereas he all week he had
hoped that Paulie would tell him about her little doings.
He would have loved to hear her chat.
"More tea, Mummy? Daddy, would you get us some
more hot water?"
He went into the kitchen and put the kettle back on the
boil. The watched pot boiled all too fast for him. When he
took the hot water back into the living room, they were
still at it, heads close, hens clucking. He sat across the
room from them unnoticed, wishing she would go.
But no. After two more cups of tea, Veronica settled
back comfortably on the sofa, showing her long, slim legs.
He had always hated her carelessness in showing herself.
Careless? It had been deliberate, probably. She blew a
reed of smoke and said to Paulie: "Look, darling, I won-
der if you'd let your father and me have a little chat? Just
for a few minutes?"
"All right," Paulie said. "I have to run down to the store
for a moment. I'll see you when I come back."
Paulie got her coat and went out, no secret look at him,
nothing. And as soon as she had gone, the stranger sat up
straight on the sofa, took her knee in her laced hands, let-
ting her skirt fall away distractingly, and said: "IVe been
thinking about Paulie. You and I must come to some ar-
rangement about her."
"What arrangement?" he said.
"Well, first of all, the expense; her school things and
clothes and so on. And then there's this question of her
being left alone so much. I could come in the evenings?"
"Could you?" he said sourly, watching that slim leg
"Yes. I could be here at a quarter to six most evenings
and I'd make supper and stay awhile and "
She talked. He watched her lips move; those lips which
at night kissed a stranger's hairy flanks. Talking, making
noises of motherhood, that mouth which each night he
heard cry out in desire. He felt his own mouth open. To
kiss those lips, to bite into that white neck, to take her
now, tumble her back, tear the clothes from that stranger
body which all week he had not been able to touch.
"So, what do you say, Ginger? Are you listening?"
"Ginger? What's the matter?"
The tea tray clattered, a cup fell sideways on its saucer.
He lumbered across the room, his hands gripping her
shoulders, his heavy body tumbling her backwards on the
sofa. He tried to kiss her, his hands pulling up her skirt,
quieting her hands as they tried to push him away. He
felt her breasts come free within her dress as a shoulder
strap snapped and heard his own breathing as he tried to
control her kicking, struggling body.
A sudden pain made his eyes water. He let her go. She
had caught both ends of his mustache and was pulling
upwards by the short hairs. She wrenched up cruelly,
then pulled down, bringing him stumbling off the sofa
onto his knees beside her. His hands caught her wrists,
stopping the pain.
"Let go, Vera. Let go!"
She let go. He stared at her, tears of hurt in his eyes, his
lust lost at last in foolish pain.
"Are you out of your mind?" she said. "You've torn my
dress and my bra. My God, Ginger, what's the matter
with you? How dare you?"
How dare he? Slowly, he got up off his knees. She had
unbuttoned the front of her dress and now, one white
shoulder out of it, was searching inside for the strap of her
bra. Her hair had fallen over her eyes and there was a red
mark on her neck as though she had been scratched. With
an effort he looked at the carpet as, her dress fully open,
she lifted one breast up, fitting on the ripped brassiere.
And all the time, scolding him. "Getting me up here and
leaping on me like a lunatic. What if Paulie had seen you?
For goodness' sake control yourself."
"I'm sorry," he said.
"You should be. Look at that. YouVe torn the dress too.
And I haven't even paid for it yet."
"Grosvenor will pay for it," he shouted. "Let him pay
"That's enough, Ginger. I came here to see what I could
do for Paulie. That doesn't give you any right to attack
"No right? I'm your husband."
"You were. You dirty rotten pig, trying to just trying
to just your own dirty desires!"
She was crying: wouldn't you know? "Ah, stop your
whinging," he said. "I'll bet that's nothing to what your
fancy man does to you every night in the week."
She stood up, buttoning her dress, distractedly trying to
tidy her hair. "I'm not going to stay here and listen to you.
I want to help Paulie. I'm her mother, just remember that.
IVe got a right to help her."
"YouVe got no right," he said. "Go on back to Mister
Canadian Viewpoint. You deserted Paulie and you de-
serted me. I'm going to divorce you, do you hear? And
when I do, I'm getting custody of Paulie."
She sat still. Only her eyes moved in her face as she
looked him up and down. Eyes bright with what he had
once thought to be her bad temper, but which now he
knew as her hate. "Divorce?" she said. "That's fine. I want
one as much as you do. More."
"Do you, Vera? Then you can help me pay for it."
"Gerry will pay for it/' she said. "I'll tell him to get in
touch with you."
"Why should Gerry pay for it?"
"Because he wants to marry me."
He looked at his hands, joined them in the steeple
game. Was that true? Would Grosvenor marry her? As
they sat there in silence a key turned in the front door
and Paulie came in with a bag of groceries and the after-
He stood up, protecting Paulie, afraid of losing her.
"You're just in time, Pet," he said. "Your mother's leav-
"So soon?" Paulie turned towards him and, suddenly,
Veronica saw the wink. She stood up, walked to the hall
closet and put on her overcoat. Then turned, trying to
save her dignity, trying to smile and say the things a
guest might say. "Paulie, dear, you're turning into a very
good housekeeper. Everything's so neat and tidy. Well,
good-by, Ginger. Good-by, Paulie. And thanks for the
This time, she did not try to kiss Paulie. She opened the
front door herself and looked at him, meaningfully. "I'll
have Gerry get in touch with you about that other thing
on Monday. All right?"
"All right/' he said. The door shut. He looked around
the living room, smelling once again that unfamiliar scent,
seeing the crumbs of biscuit on her plate, her lipsticked
butts in an ash tray. He picked them up and carried them
into the kitchen to dump them in the garbage can. He
went back into the living room and opened the door to
dissipate the scented smell. He saw his face in the win-
dowpane. That sad impostor considered him: he consid-
ered the lack of dignity in the actions of that graceless fool.
Look at you. Had you no pride, no self-respect, jumping
on her, letting her humiliate you?
He stood, staring at his image. Was that man really he?
"Daddy? What was that she said about Gerry Gros-
venor getting in touch with you?"
The mirror man watched from the windowpane as he
went to the sofa, sat down and absently bit into one of his
wife's favorite sandwich creams. Tiny crumbs powdered
his red mustache. "Come here a minute, Pet/' he said. He
waited until Paulie sat on the sofa beside him. "Your
mother and I are going to get a divorce."
"But Catholics aren't allowed to get a divorce, Daddy."
He sighed. "Your mother and I aren't real Catholics
any more. You know that."
"You see," he said. "Grosvenor wants to marry your
mother. And she wants to marry him."
In a gesture so rare that he had no courage to tell her
he did not deserve it, Paulie slid off the sofa and sat at his
feet, hugging his ankles. "Never mind, Daddy," she said.
Til look after you."
Awkwardly, his hand stroked her head. "You won't
"Of course I won't mind, Daddy."
He touched her pale cheek. She loved him, yes, she
loved him. She was his, not Vera's; his own and only
child. Wasn't that enough for any man, wasn't that a vic-
tory? He must prove worthy of that love. But as he de-
cided this, he became afraid. How could he keep her love
without a promise or two? Afraid, that foolish sad im-
postor spoke up. "Oh, Pet," the impostor said. "We'll have
a grand time, I promise you. You'll see, Pet, you'll see."
"Yes, Daddy." But why did she move her head away
from his touch? Ah, dear God. She, too, was tired of prom-
Ten On Monday Veronica would have Grosvenor get
in touch with him. He took that to mean that Grosvenor
would telephone. But at four that afternoon as he returned
his TINY ONES truck to the depot, Grosvenor's little red
midget car was parked outside Mr. Mountain's office. His
first thought was that Grosvenor must not see him in uni-
form. Skirting the little car, he drove his truck to the far
end of the depot yard. He got out on the side away from
the little car and began to double back towards the locker
room, under cover of the line of parked vehicles.
About twenty yards from the locker room, he ran out of
cover. He was crouched behind a truck, trying to plan his
next move, when a footstep from behind made him turn.
"Hello, Ginger. Thought I saw you."
His face hot with rage and humiliation, Coffey went
through the useless pretense of fixing his boot buckle.
Then, unable to look Grosvenor in the face, he straight-
ened up and turned towards the locker room. "I'm in a
hurry," he said. "I have to change."
"I'll come with you, if I may?" Without waiting for per-
mission, Grosvenor followed Coffey across the yard and
into the locker room where several other drivers were
changing into street clothes. "I came here because I wasn't
sure how I could catch you," Grosvenor said. "You're a
hard man to sec, these days."
Coffey, unable to think of a reply, stripped off his uni-
form and stood in his shirt, his legs oddly conspicuous in
the heavy red underdrawers issued to drivers. "I came to
talk about the divorce," Grosvenor said. "Veronica says
you're willing to go through with it. I think that's wise of
The other drivers were listening. "Would you mind
shutting your face about my private affairs until we get
out of here?" Coffey said in an angry whisper.
In awkward fury Coffey unbuttoned the underwear
and stood naked before his enemy; remembered that
naked was how he imagined Grosvenor each night. Hur-
riedly, he began to dress in his own clothes.
"Maybe when you're through, Ginger, we can go and
have a drink someplace?"
"You can drive me down to the Tribune" Coffey said.
"But I'll not drink with you."
"I'm sorry you feel that way, Ginger."
Coffey did not answer. He finished dressing and set off
across the yard to check out his day's receipts. When he
had finished, Grosvenor was waiting in the little red car,
its door open to receive him as passenger. He got in, his
knees rising uncomfortably to meet his chest, thinking of
her show of legs as she got into this car that awful day. It
had not been deliberate. In this car, she could not help
showing her legs. He had been wrong.
Wrong. Grosvenor started the car with a loud throttling
roar. They shot through the TINY ONES gate and into the
"The thing to settle is who's going to act as guilty
party," Grosvenor said. "Now, of course, you'll think it
should be her. But, if Veronica's the guilty party, the di-
voice will be far from a rubber-stamp affair. You see, our
Canadian divorce laws "
"For crying out loud, will you stop lecturing?" Coffey
said. "Just tell me the quickest way."
"The easiest way is to set up a false adultery scene/'
Grosvenor said. "I know a lawyer who can arrange it.
They provide everything. A girl, a detective, the works.
You check in to a hotel with the girl, and half an hour
later the detective shows up. Case is heard by the Senate
divorce committee in Ottawa. It's a cinch."
"And Vera gets custody of Paulie," Coffey said. "No
"No, no/' Grosvenor said. "Vera and I intend to get
married and have children of our own, if possible. I know
I don't want a fourteen-year-old daughter."
Involuntarily, Coffey fingered the part in his mustache.
Was that why she was marrying Grosvenor? To get the
kids they'd never had?
"Another thing we talked about," Grosvenor said, "was
the expense of a divorce. Veronica thinks that because
you're going to have the burden of supporting Paulie, it's
only fair that we pay for the divorce thing. I agree. After
all, you're pretty hard up at the moment. It wouldn't be
fair to saddle you with an additional financial burden at
Coffey, his face hot, stared at the dashboard of the car.
The ampere needle flicked, wig wag, one side to the other.
She went wig wag from him to Grosvenor, Grosvenor to
him, telling each what she knew. Poor Ginger's too hard
up to pay, you see. Now, Gerry, if you pop down and talk
to him. Then tell me.
Last night he had not slept until dawn. Last night he
had watched her in bed with Grosvenor as she laughed
and made a story of Poor Ginger's attempt to rape her.
And Grosvenor had laughed too. Grosvenor, sitting here
beside him, probably knew every secret thought or action
he'd confided to Veronica in fifteen years of marriage.
"All right/' Coffey said, in a hoarse voice. "I want rid of
her. You pay the divorce and 111 be the target. When can
we get it over with?"
"What about next Saturday night?" Grosvenor said.
"You don't work on Saturday nights, Vera says."
Coffey nodded. "Where?" he said. "And how?"
"There's a hotel called the Clarence which isn't too par-
ticular. I'll try to set it up with the lawyer for Saturday
night. You go there at ten. I'll have a girl waiting for you
in the lobby. The detective will be along later."
"Not much later," Coffey said. "I want to be home at
midnight. I have my daughter to think of."
"Of course. Shouldn't take more than an hour. I'll
phone you and let you know the details, okay?"
Again, Coffey nodded. They drove the rest of the way
in silence. When they arrived at the Tribune, Grosvenor
reached over and put his hand on Coffey's knee. Coffey
stared at that hand. It was very white, backed with very
black hairs. He saw the hairy flanks she kissed in those
nightly scenarios. Quickly, he moved his knee away.
"I just wanted to say thanks," Grosvenor said, sounding
For the first time since he had got into the car, Coffey
looked Grosvenor full in the face. It was an ordinary face.
A year ago he had not even known it existed, yet now it
was joined to his in a resemblance stronger than brother-
hood, in an intimacy he and his true brother would never
What chemistry of desire made Grosvenor willing to
face a surly husband to discuss the settlement of Veron-
ica's divorce? What made him willing to pay for that di-
vorce, to marry another man's woman, a woman older
than he? Coffey did not know. He knew only that it was
the same violent illness which, after fifteen years of mar-
riage, had suddenly revived his own desire, leaving him
prepared to commit any equal folly. He could not hate
Grosvenor, for Grosvenor in turn would suffer the same
feminine ritual of confidence and betrayal. He felt com-
passion for Grosvenor. He was cured of this sickness:
Grosvenor had inherited it.
"Good-by," he said, and held out his hand.
Surprised, Grosvenor shook hands. "Till Saturday
then?" Grosvenor said.
"Saturday it is."
His decision made, Coffey went to bed that night, con-
fident that all his fevers had passed. He went to sleep and
slept. He did not dream. In the morning Paulie heard him
singing in the kitchen.
"Somebody's in good form," she said, coming in, her
hair in curlers, her toothbrush in her hand.
Coffey turned an egg in the pan, still singing. "Why
not?" he said. "Less than two weeks to go, Pet. I wonder
what sort of a journalist I'll make? I wonder now, will
they send me off to faraway places? That's a great thing
about the journalistic profession, you never know where
you'll end up. You see, you're very much your own boss in
that field. Ah, it just shows you now, doesn't it?"
"Shows you what?" Paulie said.
"That the old saying is true. The darkest hour is just be-
fore the dawn. You have to remember that. Hope, now
that's what you need. While there's hope, there's life."
"Somebody's in a philosophical mood this morning."
"And why not? Do you know another thing I was think-
ing this morning, Pet? The old saying, Man wasn't born to
live alone ... Do you know, that's a lot of malarkey?
For Man was, and the sooner he faces up to it, the better/'
"Does that mean you want to get rid of me?" Paulie
"Never!" He kissed her on her brow, cold cream and all.
"By the way," he said. "That reminds me. I have to go out
on Saturday night. I won't be back till nearly midnight/'
"But, that's perfect," Paulie said. "I was going to ask
some of the kids over, anyway. Maybe you could go out
early and leave us the place to ourselves?"
Well, he could go to a film, he supposed. Ah, he wasn't
like some people: he knew that children hated grownups
around when they were having a party. "Good idea," he
said cheerfully. "I'll do that. Go to a film, or something,
and leave you a clear field."
On Friday, when he returned from his TINY ONES
round, Mr. Mountain handed him a message which had
come in during the day. It was to call Mr. Grosvenor be-
fore seven. So when Coffey arrived at the Tribune, he
rang Grosvenor at home.
"Ginger? Good, I've been trying to get you. It's all set
for tomorrow night. You're to go to the Clarence Hotel at
nine forty-five. Go to the bar and there'll be a girl there
wearing a green overcoat and a black fur hat. Her name is
Melody Ward. Got that? Melody Ward. Have a drink with
her, then take her upstairs. There'll be a visitor at ten
forty. Okay? And Ginger you won't even have to pay
the hotel bill. I'll reimburse you later."
"Fair enough," Coffey said. He hung up, feeling like a
man in a thriller. It wasn't sordid at all, it was an adven-
ture. Melody Ward. He even found himself wondering
would she be pretty? He did not think of Veronica. Be-
cause he was finished with all that, you see. He was
Saturday evening, he returned from his delivery round
in good spirits. He finished his supper at seven and, de-
termined to be agreeable, put on his coat and hat and
went out, leaving the flat free for the children when they
came. He told Paulie he would be home about twelve.
It was a clear cold night, electric and anticipant. When
Coffey alighted from a bus in the center of the city, he
was at once caught up in the hurry of a Saturday-
night spree. Neon lights promised, spelled pleasures, per-
formed tricks. A neon Highlander danced a jig over a
clothier's, a comic chicken popped its head in and out of
the Q in a BAR-B-Q sign, a neon hockey player jiggled
his stick over a tavern doorway. In movie house entrances,
bathed in the fairground brightness of million-watt ceil-
ings, diminished and humbled by enormous posters pro-
claiming current attractions, anticipant girls fidgeted,
waiting for their dates; solitary boys consulted wrist
watches and dragged on cigarettes, nervously checking
their brilliantined pompadours in reflections from the
glass-walled cashier's shrine. And as Coffey strolled, slow,
slower than the crowd, not sure what to do, he was swept
up in a change of shows and eddied into one of these
entrances. He stood undecided under the myriad lights,
watching the anticipant girls smile and wave in sudden
recognition, the boys drop their cigarettes and hurry for-
ward; the pairing, the claiming, the world going two by
Watching, he absently stroked the part in his mustache:
felt a sadness. All these thousands, hurrying to meet; yet
he was alone. Saturday night and they came down in
their thousands to laugh, to dance, to sit in the dark
watching colored screens, holding hands, sharing joys.
While he waited to meet some unknown woman in a
strange bar, to go upstairs with that stranger to an un-
known room, perhaps to lie down on a bed with her, in
make-believe of an intimacy he now shared with no
one. And when it was over, he would have no one: not
even Paulie. For Paulie had put him out tonight so that
she, with other youngsters, could laugh and dance, lis-
tening to shared music.
He had no one. He was three thousand miles from home,
across half a frozen continent and the whole Atlantic
Ocean. Only one person in this city, only one person in
the world, really knew him now: knew the man he once
was, the man he now was. One person in the whole world,
who fifteen years ago in Saint Pat's in Dalkey had stood
beside him in a white veil for richer for poorer, in sick-
ness and in health until death. One person had known
him or known most of him. Would anyone ever know
Well now, enough of that. Do something.
He went up to the cashier's little glass shrine; put a
dollar in the opening. The cashier pressed a button and
an aluminum machine spat a ticket at him. The cashier
made change by manipulating another machine. A nickel
dropped into its little metal change bowl. He picked it
up. That was the way of this world. You saw someone in a
glass cage, stepped up, exchanged things, but never
touched. Oh, come on now! Enough of that, I said.
At the back of the theater, penned two by two behind a
velvet rope, a line of people waited. The usherette, a girl
not much older than Paulie, came up to him. "Single, sir?
We have seats in the first six rows."
There was something about her: her accent was not
Canadian. He smiled at her, drawn by that immigrant
bond, and followed her from the lighted area into the
darkness of the theater. Poor kid. Her scapula bone stuck
out at right angles against the maroon stuff of her uni-
form. New Canadians: thousands like her came here each
year; thousands started all over again in humble circs.
You heard such stories: lawyers forced to take work as
checkers, doctors as lab assistants, professors driving
trucks. And still they came, from every country in
Europe, riding in old railroad colonist cars to the remote
provinces of this cold, faraway land. Why did they do it?
For their children's sake, it was said. Well, and wasn't he
driving a truck now for his daughter's sake? Wasn't he
one of them? Wasn't he, too, a man who would always be
a stranger here, never at home in this land where he had
not grown up. Yes: he too.
The girl's flashlight showed him an almost empty row,
lowering its beam as she waited for him to enter his seat.
He wanted to stop, take her by the arm, lead her back up
the aisle into the light again. To say: "I too am an im-
migrant," to compare impressions, reminisce, to tell the
things that immigrants tell. But the flashlight beam
snapped off. He could no longer see her. He sat down,
purblinded by the colored images on the huge screen
above. He looked around. Here were the solitaries. Some
slept, some slumped in morose contemplation of the film
giantess kicking yard-long legs, while some, like him, ig-
nored her and peered about them in the shadows, hoping
for a glance, a promise of company.
How long was it since he'd sat down here? Years, years.
But he remembered: mitching away long school after-
noons in the picture houses off O'Connell Street, huddled
down in his seat for fear someone might see him and tell
his parents. And later, as a university student, the lonely
Saturday nights in cheap front seats, hoping that some
American daydream would banish the private misery of
having no girl, no place to go. Well, and was he going
back to all that? For if he lost Veronica now, who would
have him, a man nearly forty with a grown-up daughter
on his hands? Wouldn't he end his days here among the
Enough of that. He tried watching the film, but some-
how the filmed America no longer seemed true. He could
not believe in this America, this land that half the world
dreams of in dark front seats in cities and villages half a
world away. What had it in common with his true Amer-
ica? For Canada was America; the difference a geogra-
pher's line. What had these Hollywood revels to do with
the facts of life in a cold New World?
At half past eight, unable to watch the film any longer,
he went upstairs and sat in the lobby, waiting to go to
the Clarence Hotel, waiting to meet a girl in a green coat
and a black fur hat. He thought about her, Miss Melody
Ward. How many of her customers really went to bed
with her? Did she charge you extra for that? That made
him smile. By the holy, it would be great gas to charge
Grosvenor for that.
At nine fifteen he left the theater and began to walk to-
wards Windsor Street. He thought of Veronica and won-
dered if she were thinking of him this minute as he started
off to end it. And if she were thinking of him now, didn't
she feel as he did, some sorrow that tonight, after all those
years, it was ending? She must feel some sorrow, he de-
cided. Anybody would.
The Clarence was a small hotel opposite the Canadian
Pacific Railway terminus. The neon sign over its side en-
trance read MONTMORENCY ROOM and a display case
showing photographs of glossy nonentities advertised
CONTINUOUS ENTERTAINMENT. He went in. The hotel lobby
was on the right and consisted of a single desk-cum-cigar
stand with three armchairs in a row facing the street win-
dow. At the desk was a night reception clerk and in
the armchairs three old men stared out at the snow,
watching traffic. On the left, in the Montmorency Room, a
pallid French-Canadian sang a cowboy lament to an au-
dience of eight drinkers. Coffey entered, sat down at a
table and ordered a rye. There was no girl in a green
coat and a black fur hat. He was glad. Wasn't this whole
thing daft? Why should he go through with it? He would
not go through with it. Stranger or not, Veronica was his
lawful wedded wife: his, not Grosvenor's. Why should
Grosvenor have her? Why should he be the one who was
But the clock over the bar said nine thirty-seven and it
was too late to ring Grosvenor and call this off. The girl
would be here any minute, the detective was probably on
his way already, the lawyer had arranged things
And and all his life, he had hated scenes, hated mak-
ing a fuss. It was too late now, far too late to change
things, because because at that moment a girl walked
in. She wore a green overcoat and a black fur hat. She
went up to the bar, spoke to the barman, then turned
and looked around the room. She looked at him. And, by
J, she was not the sort of girl who'd stand any nonsense.
She was tall and pretty and tough. And, by J, she was
coming right at him!
"You're Mr. Coffey, right?" she said.
"Yes." He stood up.
"The mustache," she said. "I was told to look out for it."
Yes, he said, and would she please sit down. And what
would she have to drink? A brandy? He called the waiter.
He joined his hands under the table. Here's the church
. . . How could he get out of it now? And heres the
steeple . . . Because she wasn't the sort who would let
him off lightly. Open the gates . . . good-looking too, in
other circumstances he wouldn't half-mind . . .
The waiter brought a brandy and Coffey paid. The
French-Canadian singer sang a song about Paree, Paree.
The girl sipped her brandy, listening to the song. And
here's the minister coming upstairs . . . Too late, wasn't
it? Of course it was. Besides, it wasn't his idea, it was
Grosvenor's, all Grosvenor's fault . . .
And here's the minister . . . Grosvenor's fault. He re-
membered sitting in the Ritz, his hands joined as now in
the steeple game. And remembered what Veronica said in
the Ritz: Gerry's fault? Not your fault, of course. Never
your fault, is it, Ginger?
He unclasped his hands and looked nervously at the
girl. What sort of man would worry more about offending
a strange whore than about losing his wife? Ah, dear
God. The sort of man who had been ready to walk away
from Grosvenor's apartment door one night for fear of a
scene, who had only rung the bell that night because
some total stranger gave him a suspicious look. The sort
of sad impostor who now, seeing Miss Melody Ward ap-
plaud the singer, raised his hands and applauded too.
The singer bowed and went behind a curtain. The lights
went on. "Well," said the girl, putting down her glass, "I
guess we'd better go up, huh?"
Who was he to talk about in sickness and in health
until death? He, who half an hour ago had thought of
taking this strange whore to bed, not of fifteen years of
marriage. Who was he to condemn Veronica?
Miss Melody Ward stood up. She preceded him across
the room and waited for him in the lobby. Through the re-
flection from the street window, the three armchair an-
cients watched him join her.
"Okay," she said. "Now sign us in as Mr. and Mrs.
Your right name, mind. But give an out-of-town address,
like Toronto, huh? And act sort of loaded so's the clerk
He began, his large trembling dignity compromised
by a sudden mulish stammer. "Nu-no," he said. "No I
"Oh, come on," she said. "Don't worry."
He avoided her eye, looked at the linoleum squares of
the lobby floor.
"Oh, listen," she said. "This happens all the time. A lot
of guys are nervous, so what? I mean, you don't have to
do anything, see? I mean, we just go up and have a drink
in the room and then I take a shower. I'm in the shower
when the lawyer's man comes."
The three old men sat silent in their chairs, their faces
fixedly vacant in the manner of surreptitious listeners.
"So come on," she said. "I won't eat you."
If only she knew: to go up would be so easy. They were
all waiting: the girl, the lawyer's man, the desk clerk,
Veronica. All trying to shame him into compliance.
"No," he said. "I'm going home."
"Well, for Christsake," Miss Melody Ward began, her
voice rising to a terrifying decibel count. "What are you
playing at, huh? I mean to say, I came all the way down
here, I gave up another appointment "
"You'll be paid," he said. "Good night."
And turned away, his military manner failed com-
pletely in the desk clerk's curious stare, in the peering
and whispering of the old men as he fled towards the
sanctuary of the hotel door. Outside, he stood for a mo-
ment in the slush of the gutter and raised his face to the
sky. Snow fell, wetting his cheeks. He felt his body
tremble. Yes, it was a victory.
He went home. He had promised Paulie that he would
stay out until her party was over, but in his victorious
mood, he forgot all that. Somehow or other he must try to
get Veronica back; that was all he thought of now.
And so, at ten-fifteen, he paused outside the door of his
flat, hearing from within that loud rockabilly nonsense
that Paulie loved so well. He hesitated, but suffering J,
wasn't this his home as well as hers? Why shouldn't he take
the bull by the horns twice in one night? He let himself in.
In the tiny living room, furniture had been cleared
against the walls and two boys danced cheek to cheek
with two of Paulie's schoolmates. The girls he knew; like
Paulie they were children playing at being women, their
childish bodies tricked out in low-necked blouses and
ballerina skirts; their faces unnaturally aged by lipstick
and eye shadow.
The boys were older; they wore leather windbreakers,
Western-style shirts, bootlace ties. Peculiar, brilliantined
haircuts gave them the appearance of wet sea birds.
Where was Paulie?
He turned. In the narrow trough of kitchen, a third
sea bird faced him, eyes shut, spread hands distributed,
one over Paulie's small rump, one on her back, pressing
her breasts tight against him. Paulie's body moved in
time to the music but her feet did not. Eyes shut, her
pale face flowered upwards to the electric light bulb,
she undulated in a fixed position, rubbing against the boy.
Coffey took three steps into the living room and knocked
the player arm off its thundering course. Eyes opened. The
dancers stopped. The arm scratched in the silence, its
needle frustrated: slipping, circling, slipping again.
"Daddy?" Paulie said, coming out of the kitchen.
"What time is it?"
But Coffey did not look at her. He pointed to the boy
behind her. "What's your name?" he said.
"Bruno," the boy said. He had a slight inward cast to
his eyes which gave him an aggrieved look. "Why? You
"Do you go to school?" Coffey asked.
"Me?" the boy seemed puzzled by the question. He
turned to Paulie. "What'd I do?" he said.
"No, Daddy, Bruno doesn't go to school. He works."
"I thought you said these were all school friends,
One of the girls giggled. The boys exchanged glances
and winks. "Apple?" one of them said to Paulie. "That
what they call you at home?"
All laughed, except Paulie.
"Is there something funny about that?" Coffey said
to the boy.
The boy, caught in Coffey's stare, was silent. The girls,
saving him, said it was late, they really must go. The boys
said they would drive them in their car. They ignored
Coffey, as did Paulie, who rushed around, helping them
find their coats, talking pointedly about how sorry she
was; it was early; it was a pity they couldn't stay.
"'Night, kid," said the boy who had been dancing
"Be seeing you Apple" another boy said.
"Good night Mister ah Coffey."
"Good night." Paulie shut the door and went into the
kitchen to clear away the litter of Coke bottles and plates,
while her father started to restore the furniture to its
"Why did you call me Apple in front of them?" an an-
gry voice said from the kitchen.
I m sorry.
"And why did you come home when you said you'd
be late? You've ruined my party."
He pulled the sofa back into place and paused, his
lips shut tight under his mustache. After all he'd been
through tonight! "Come here a minute," he called.
She came from the kitchen and stood in the doorway.
Her face was pale. Her eyes were bright. Anger? She
was his girl; she looked like him. But he saw Veronica
there. Not anger, no. Hate.
"These boys," he said. "They weren't school friends.
They're older boys, aren't they?"
"Little thugs," he said. "If you ask me."
"Nobody asked you, Daddy."
Was it for this that he was working day and night? Was
this all he had left now, this this cheekiness?
He slapped his daughter's face. It was the first time in
his life he had done such a thing.
Tears formed in Paulie's wide eyes. She stared at him
as though she had lost her sight, then, with a wail of
rage, began to weep. "Leave me alone! You don't touch
me. You You Everybody'll be making fun of me.
I'm not your Apple, do you hear? You and your Apple!
I'm nearly fifteen."
"Exactly," he said. "So what are you doing painted and
powdered like an old woman? Go and wash that muck off
"No, I won't!" she screamed.
He took her arm. "Do what you're told, miss, or I'll put
you over my knee and teach you some manners."
"Don't you dare." She wrenched free, ran into the
kitchen and reappeared, an aluminum saucepan in her
hand. "Just you come near me."
"Put that down, Paulie. Paulie, put that down."
She threw it down. It clattered on the linoleum of the
hall. She turned, ran into the bathroom and locked the
door. Ah, Dear God. Contrite, he went to the door and
knocked on it. "Paulie? Now, listen Pet, listen to me "
"I'm not your Pet. You're not going to bully me the
way you bullied Mummy. I'll run off with somebody too.
I can run off with Bruno. Just remember that."
Run off with Bruno? He felt dizzy. He backed away
from the door and sat down on the first chair his hand
touched. In his mind, a child's voice spoke: Do you like
big elephants best of all, or do you like horses best of all?
He remembered her asking that. Or: Why do my dolly's
eyes stay open when she sleeps? Conversations which
ended with him telling her something she did not know.
Now, she had told him something he did not know.
Paulie came out of the bathroom. She crossed the living
room. 'Tm going to bed/' she said. "Will you put the
He heard her shut and bolt her bedroom door. She too
could run off with some male. Once, if Daddy liked big
elephants best of all, then Paulie liked big elephants too.
But now . . .
He covered his eyes, his fingers pressing against his eye-
balls until it hurt. Now, she was not his little Apple any
more. Big elephants were no longer relevant.
Eleven Bells, calling to the noon mass in the Basil-
ica, tolled out across the city in a clear and freezing tone,
waking him from an exhausted sleep into a world without
end, amen. Slowly they focused, the facts of his life. Some-
one lost, someone stolen, someone strayed. But the morn-
ing habit of a lifetime, kicking now with its head cut off,
must begin to balance the good with the bad. The habits
of an habitual ratiocinator must be fixed in hope. And so,
let's see. At least he had gained a little victory by running
away last night. At least, last night, he had had his eyes
opened to Paulie's true intentions. There was still time to
stop her running wild. And so . . .
And so, when the bells stopped tolling and the wor-
shipers went up the steps to pray, Ginger Coffey, with no
God in whom he could place his trust, placed it as he
must, in men. By ratiocination, MacGregor became his
hope. If he could last one more week, MacGregor had
promised to promote him. And once MacGregor promoted
him, as J. F. Coffey, Journalist, he would have time to
oversee and correct his daughter's upbringing. As J. F.
Coffey, Journalist, he would have a job he was proud of
at last. No glorified secretary, no galley slave, no joeboy;
but a Gentleman of the Press.
And so, he had been right to come to Canada, after all.
He had picked a winner. In the winner's circle, by his
habitual processes of ratiocination, he thought it natural
that Veronica would salute his silks.
So, one-two-three, lift up your big carcass, you winner
you. Up! And up he got, feeling a twinge in his left leg,
going heavy and slow to the kitchen where Paulie was.
He started right in.
"Hello, Pet. About last night. I mean, I'm sorry. Now,
listen to me "
The phone rang, postponing his armistice plans. He an-
swered. It was Veronica. "Ginger? I want to know if I can
come and see Paulie this afternoon."
"Of course you can," he said.
"But if I come I don't want any repetition of the last
time. I want you to be out."
"Look," he said. "I have to have a chat with you."
"Well Well, last night I mean, last night I didn't
go through with that business."
"You didn't? Why?"
"Well, I'll explain it to you when I see you. And I want
to talk to you about Paulie."
"What about Paulie?"
"Oh, don't be ridiculous," she said. "Have you had a
row with her? Let me speak to her."
"No, wait, dear, I want to explain "
"Let me speak to Paulie!"
He sighed, put the phone down and beckoned to Paulie
who was listening at the kitchen door. He went into the
kitchen and listened himself, trying to make sense of what
was being said.
"No, Mother. ... No. ... We had a row last night.
... He hit me. . . . Yes, he did. Because, well, 111 tell
you when I see you. . . . Yes, I'll come now."
Paulie came back into the kitchen. "Isn't your mother
coming here?" Coffey said.
"No. I'm meeting her downtown for coffee. Now, if
you'll excuse me, Daddy, I've got to get dressed/'
She went out. He looked at the stove. For the first time
since they'd been together, she hadn't made his Sunday
breakfast. He got up, spooned a dollop of instant coffee
into a cup and sat down again, waiting for the water to
boil. A few minutes later he heard Paulie go out. He sat
alone, thinking of her meeting Vera in some restaurant,
knowing that, in their womany way, he would be blamed
for all that happened last night.
Somewhere in the bowels of the apartment the furnace
coughed and whirred into life. He drank his instant cof-
fee. Upstairs, someone knocked on a radiator and the
noise echoed down through the pipes to the basement.
The whirring ceased. The furnace went off. Yes, it was
hard to hope.
At ten minutes to two, the telephone rang. He expected
it would be Grosvenor, asking why last night's plans had
gone agley. But it was Veronica.
"Ginger," she said. "Paulie's just left and she's on her
way home. I want to see you at once, it's very important.
After what she's told me, you and I have to come to some
"All right," he said.
"Can you come up to my room?" she asked.
"Now. Paulie has a key, hasn't she? You don't have to
wait for her?"
"All right then, hurry. Here's the address."
In his dreams which were not dreams, he had some-
times seen her room. She did not spend much time in it
but it was large and elegant, furnished with spindly Swed-
ish things and a large, un-slept-in bed. It was close to
The reality was an Edwardian gingerbread house on
the dividing line between the English and French sec-
tions of the city, a slum whose sagging porches and bal-
conies were weighted with a winter's accumulation of
crusted, filth-spattered snow. The hallway was bare and
uncarpeted; the staircase supports were loose. Communal
cooking devices were placed on the landings and large
garbage pails stood sentinel at each turning of the stairs.
She lived on the third floor. She was waiting for him on
the landing as he came up, his face slapped red by the
cold, his car coat unbuttoned, his unhusbandly status
plain by the polite way he took off his little green hat as
he went to greet her. And she, still the stranger, wearing a
navy-blue dress and a white bead necklace, her stocking
seams straight. He thought how a certain kind of drunk-
ard hides signs of his failing in a meticulous attention to
dress. A certain type of lady hides her nights of orgy . . .
"Come on in," said the lady, without preamble. "I just
got back myself a minute ago. Mind that step."
Large? Modern? The room alarmed him. It was smaller
than the cell he had briefly occupied at the Y.M.C.A.
There was no closet, so her clothes were hung on hooks
all around the walls. The bed was an unwieldy double,
occupying two thirds of the floor space. There was a
small washbasin, its enamel browned with age. There was
a small window, its panes covered with diamonded paper.
Of course she was never here; of course she just used it
as a place to keep her things. Why, then, were there tins
of food under the basin? Why was there milk on the win-
dow sill, why those dishes stacked in a corner? He sat on
the only chair; watched as she went to the mirror over
the sink and unfastened her necklace. "Filthy place, isn't
it?" she said. "They never clean it. I'm going to take my
good dress off, if you don't mind. Oh, I'm in such a state
about Paulie. I knew she was running around with boys.
I just felt it."
Desirable stranger pulled the dress over her head. Her
white slip rose also, revealing her stocking tops and garter
straps. It was the beginning of one of his nightly scena-
rios. He put his little green hat between his feet. The
floor was not clean. How could she stay so clean here?
"I gather his name is Bruno," she said, "and that he's a
"He's a little thug," Coffey said. "And she's only a
"Well, that's got to stop," she said. "No two ways about
it: that's stopping right now."
She went past him in her slip and reached behind the
door for her dressing gown. It, at least, was familiar. He
had bought it for her as a Christmas present one hundred
years ago in a shop in Grafton Street. She sat on the bed,
reaching across the bed for her cigarettes while he stood,
enormous and clumsy, in the tiny, ill-lit room, his hand
trembling as he held out a match flame.
"Thank you." She sucked in her cheeks, expelled smoke
and leaned back on the pillows. She drew one knee up,
lacing it with her joined hands. He looked at, then looked
away from her bare white thigh, her tan stocking top.
Whorish beauty, cover yourself! But oh! Wasn't that ges-
ture of drawing one knee up, holding it in her hands,
wasn't that familiar from the years he had known her? Of
course it was. Then, why had he never really looked at
her in all those years? Why was it so distracting now?
He did not hear a word she was saying. He shifted in his
chair, shamed and troubled by his desire.
". . . And supervision," she said. "No more leaving her
alone every evening. So, what are we going to do about
We. We is you and me. He looked again at the cans of
food under the sink. Maybe his imaginings about her and
Grosvenor had been only that? Maybe
"Listen," he said. "If only you'd come back. I mean,
even as a temporary arrangement until I get this new
job. Listen, Vera "
Listen? As he said the word, he saw her face. Of course
she would not listen. As of old, she merely waited her
turn to speak.
"For instance," he said. "Paulie's wearing lipstick and
powder and her nails are orange. Now, I don't know about
these things. She says the other girls in her class use them.
How do I know?"
Veronica stubbed out her cigarette and turned her face
against the pillows. "Oh God! It never changes, does it?
Am I never to have any life of my own? The pair of you,"
she said, "you'd think you planned it. You can't look
after Paulie, and of course she refuses to come and live
with me. And of course, you won't go through with the
divorce oh, that would be too easy, that would be help-
ing me, wouldn't it? And of course, Gerry can't wait for-
She stubbed out her cigarette and sighed, a woman be-
yond all hope. "All right," she said. "I'll go back until you
get this other job. All right. Oh, it would have been too
much to expect that I'd have some life of my own after all
these years wet-nursing the pair of you."
He avoided her angry eyes. He looked away and was
caught in another stare, that of his own image in the mir-
ror above the sink. The mirror man was flushed and
guilty. Well now, fellow, and do you hear that? She's
coming back for a while. Not because she wants to come,
mind you, but because she has to stop you messing up
Paulie's life. Do you follow me there, my alter ego? Do
you want her?
He looked at her. Yes, he wanted her, no matter what
"And if I do come back/' she said, "it's temporary. I'm
keeping my job on. And I'm to be in charge of Paulie.
Do you understand?"
He nodded, all right.
"And another thing," she said. "I'd like to have my own
The mirror man watched his embarrassment. "There's
ah there's only two bedrooms," he said. "There are
twin beds in my room."
She sighed in swift exasperation. "Oh well, I suppose we
may as well get started. Get my suitcases, will you? They're
under the bed."
The mirror man watched as he went down on his knees.
So, she came home. That night when he returned from
his proofreading duties, he found her asleep in the twin
bed next to his. Quickly he began to undress, remember-
ing all the waking dreams of her absence, and in a few
minutes, large, naked and vulnerable, he shyly ap-
proached her bed. He hesitated, then bent over and
placed a bristly mustache kiss on the nape of her neck.
Immediately she could not have been asleep she
sat up and switched on the light. She stared at him.
Naked, it was plain what ailed him.
"Go back to your own bed," she said.
"Ah now, Vera "
"Either you go back to your own bed or I'll dress and
"Suffering J!" he said. But he went back to his own bed.
He slept. He dreamed about her. And next morning
awoke to a new torture. Covertly he watched as she got
out of bed. She was wearing flannel pajamas which were
not exactly Gay Paree but which nevertheless brought
him to sudden desire. He turned towards her, the ends of
his mustache lifting in a hopeful smile . . .
She stared him down. Without a word, she picked her
clothes off the chair and went into the bathroom, leaving
him alone, his desire drooping to a sadness. Unshaven
and unfed ( for she stayed in the bathroom ) he fled to an-
other day of diapers.
Still, wasn't it better to have her in the house, no mat-
ter how cold she was, than to torture himself with im-
aginings? Soon she'd thaw; the KEEP OFF THE GRASS signs
would come down; Grosvenor would be forgotten. Soon
they'd be friends again. Paulie would be friends with him
too. Soon MacGregor would promote him. Soon everything
would be all right. Soon . . .
Yes, he put all his hopes in one basket, an ancient bas-
ket by the name of MacGregor. That night, when he went
to work at the Tribune, he attacked his galleys like a driven
man. That night when MacGregor passed through on his
usual sortie, Coffey looked up from the dirty steel desk,
not in fear but in hope, proud of the great mass of cor-
rected proofs on his spike, hoping MacGregor would see
in him a man worthy of advancement.
But MacGregor did not single him out. MacGregor
passed him by.
Ah well. Maybe tomorrow night?
Tomorrow was Tuesday. When he came back for his
supper on Tuesday night, Veronica was not there. Nei-
ther was Paulie. Not that that made much difference, as
Paulie hadn't spoken two words to him since her mother's
return. Still, it couldn't last much longer, could it?
He went to work. Again he drove himself to produce the
greatest number of corrected galleys. Again he lived in
hopes. And Hooray! At a quarter to ten, just before the
supper break, a copy boy came into the composing room
and said Coffey was wanted at the city desk.
"Did you hear that?" Coffey said to Old Billy Davis.
"The city desk. Ah, now, MacGregor isn't such a bad
old basket after all. He's given the order and the city edi-
tor's going to find a spot for me/'
Old Billy fingered his feathery goatee. "J ust so l n g as it
isn't trouble," he said. "Best you can hope for is keep
out of trouble. Watch your step."
Poor old sausage, what would he know? In joyful dis-
paragement, J. F. Coffey, Journalist, donned his jacket
and hurried out into the great cavern of the city room,
sure that now, his ship rounding the harbor bar . . .
False alarm. Leaning against a pillar a few steps from
the city desk a visitor awaited Coffey. Waited, slightly dis-
arranged as though the window dresser had gone to
lunch and left him unfinished.
"Hi," he said. He turned towards the City Editor and
said in a slurred, half-drunken voice: "Okay if I borrow
"Go ahead, Gerry boy," the City Editor said.
Gerald Grosvenor waved his thanks, then, detaching
himself from the pillar, came towards Coffey. "Come on
in the cafeteria," he said. "I want to have a talk with
He was drunk, that was plain. Uneasily, Coffey accom-
panied him along the corridor to the cafeteria, praying that
MacGregor would not spot them. Uneasily he waited as
Grosvenor, after a noisy exchange of greetings with two
reporters and the counterman, brought steaming mugs of
coffee to the table. MacGregor had not yet paid his nightly
visit; Coffey was supposed to be at his desk, not here.
"Look," he said to Grosvenor. "I'm busy and it's not my
supper time yet. Now, what is it?"
"Want to talk to you," Grosvenor said. "Just left Veron-
ica half an hour ago. You bastard. You're crucifying that
Uneasily Coffey looked around the cafeteria. The
counterman was listening.
"Left her in tears," Grosvenor said in a loud voice. "At
the end of her rope, see? Goddammit, I love that girl.
And she loves me too. Yes, she does."
To Coffey 's intense embarrassment, Grosvenor began to
weep. Worse, Grosvenor did not seem to care who saw
him. "What are you?" Grosvenor said tearfully. "A dog in
the manger, or something? You're ruining Vera's life."
"Will you shut up?" Coffey whispered urgently. "Lower
your voice and stop sniffling."
"Forcing her to come back," Grosvenor said. "Using
your daughter as bait. Don't you see what you're doing to
both of them? It's criminal."
"Shut up! Shut up, or I'll shut you up."
"No, I won't shut up. You're a menace, Ging'r, that's
what you are. You're one of those guys, you don't care
about anybody except yourself. Veronica hates your guts,
"She does nothing of the sort," Coffey said, unwisely.
"No? Only went back because you were messing up
Paulie's life, didn't she? That's what she said tonight. I
mean " and Grosvenor reached across the table, his
hairy black hand gripping Coffey 's wrist. "I mean, I'm
not going to let you get away with this. I'm going to kill
you, you sonofabitch."
Quickly, Coffey disengaged his wrist. Until now Gros-
venor had been merely a lay figure in his imaginings, a
self-important dummy which Veronica had picked to af-
front him with. But now, look at him. Weeping, revenge-
ful, not ashamed to make a fool of himself for love's sake.
Is this why Veronica loves him? Because he cares more
about her than about himself, because, unlike me, he's
prepared to weep in public? Suddenly and for the
first time Coffey feared Grosvenor; feared the reckless-
ness of Grosvenor's love.
"Now listen to me," he said, staring at Grosvenor. "Lis-
ten, now. Veronica's my wife and I intend to hold on to
her. Get that straight. I'm a newcomer in a new country
and I've had my troubles finding a spot, as who wouldn't?
But things have changed. I'm on the right track now. I'm
getting a better job soon and we're going to be all right, all
of us. So bugger off, Grosvenor. I'm warning you, if I
catch you hanging around Vera any more it's you that
will be killed!"
"You don't scare me," Grosvenor said drunkenly. "You
big Irish ape. You and Veronica are finished, do you hear?
She loves me. She's coming back to me. Know what I'm
going to do? I'm going to beat the piss out of you, Bus-
With that, Grosvenor stood up, wiped his wet eyes with
the back of his hand and moved out from the table,
spilling coffee from the untouched mugs. He stood in the
aisle, raising his arms in the exaggerated stance of an old-
style barearm boxer. Drunkenly he began to circle Coffey,
who hesitated, embarrassed by the rapidly forming audi-
ence of reporters and copy boys, uneasily aware that Mac-
Gregor might walk in at any moment, yet itching to lay
Grosvenor in his tracks.
"Come on," Grosvenor jeered. "Fight! I'm going to kill
you, you sonofabitch. Somebody should have done it
His face ruddy with anger, Coffey ducked the long
loping clout which Grosvenor aimed at him. Then he
moved in. He knocked Grosvenor's right arm aside and
stiffened Grosvenor with a vicious punch in the mouth.
Grosvenor stumbled, hit a chair and sat down in it, his
hands going to his mouth. After a moment a trickle of
blood ran down his wrists. He took his cupped hands away
and stared into the bloody spittle in his palms. There
were bits of teeth there. The spectators looked at Coffey
with new respect and one of the older reporters came
forward, blocking his path. "Hold on," he said. "Guy's
Coffey did not need the restraint. His anger bled to
shame at sight of Grosvenor, pathetic and beaten, the
underdog beloved by the crowd. Whereas he, the man
with right on his side, stood convicted as a bully. He
dropped his arms and, at that moment, as though an-
nouncing the end of the contest, the composing room bell
rang in the corridor. Supper break. Now, it did not mat-
ter if MacGregor walked in. A victor, wanting the crowd
to think him a good sport, he went over to Grosvenor and
tried to help him up. "Come on/* he said. "You're in no
condition to fight. Better cut off home."
Grosvenor pushed him away. He stood up, watched by
all the cafeteria customers and, staggering slightly, put
his hand to his mouth as though he were about to vomit.
He rushed into the corridor, Coffey following.
"Do you want to go to the Men's Room?" Coffey called
after him. "It's the other way."
"Go to hell," Grosvenor mumbled. He lurched along the
corridor, one hand over his mouth, the other fending the
corridor wall away. At the end of the corridor a service
elevator waited, its gate open, its operator squat on his
little stool. Grosvenor lurched inside, then turned, look-
ing curiously like a performer on a tiny, bright-lit stage.
He pointed an accusing finger at Coffey. "You won't get
her," he shouted. "She's coming to me. Irish Ape, you'll
fail! She's mine, do you hear me? Mine!"
That crying voice, that bloodied mouth, that accusing
finger, the sight of Grosvenor in the bright-lit elevator
cage all filled Coffey with an unreasoning dread. It
was as though Grosvenor had formally pronounced a
curse on him. And at that moment, MacGregor appeared,
Jehovah at the far end of the corridor, attended by
Clarence, his fat ministering angel. In sudden panic Cof-
fey ran forward, tried to close the elevator gate.
"Take him down," he whispered to the operator. "Hurry,
Startled, the elevator operator closed the gate. The ele-
vator cage fell shuddering into the black shaft. Coffey
turned and walked back up the corridor towards Mac-
Gregor, a man approaching the altar of his hope. Surely in
this minute his luck must change? Surely in this very
minute MacGregor would dispel the curse of Grosvenor's
Clarence, riffling through his notebook, said: "Eleven
hundred lines, sir."
"That's it," MacGregor said. "Shoe Week Convention.
Tell the city desk to send a man to cover it. Good adver-
"Yes, Chief," Clarence said.
Coffey was level with them now. He turned towards
MacGregor, his face like a child's in its longing.
"A few wee features on the local page," MacGregor
said. "To keep the advertisers happy."
They passed him by. They had not seen him. He did
not exist. Irish Ape, you II fail!
That night when he got home, Veronica was sitting up
in bed reading a book. "What did you do to Gerry?" she
"He started it. He came in drunk and acting like a
"So you broke two front teeth for him?"
"That was an accident, dear. Besides, he asked for it."
"An accident?" she said. "Well, let me tell you, you're
wasting your time/'
"What do you mean?"
"I mean, hitting Gerry, what good's that going to do
you? Gerry's more of a man than you'll ever be. Gerry
loves me. That's why he was so upset tonight when I told
him I'd have to stay here. That's why he got drunk."
Coffey began to undress.
"And another thing," she said. "I've no intention of
staying here one minute longer than I have to. Today, I
spoke to the mothers of those girls Paulie goes around
with, and we're all going to make sure that gang of hood-
lums are chased out. We're going to arrange more eve-
nings at home for Paulie and the others. I can come over
here two or three evenings a week and supervise. I don't
have to live here all the time, just for that."
"Ah now, wait, Kitten why, at the end of this week,
I'll have that new job and maybe then we could "
"New job," she said. "Oh, for God's sake!"
"No, I'm getting it, dear. Honestly."
"Want to bet?" She reached up and put the light off.
"Good night," she said. "I have to work tomorrow."
Slowly, he finished undressing. He put on his pa-
jamas. If she left now . . . He went over to her bed, sat
on the edge, and put out his hand. It hovered over her,
then settled on her shoulder. "Vera?" he said.
"Vera, I know Grosvenor loves you. But I do too."
"Don't laugh, Vera. I do love you. Honestly I do."
"Listen to me," she said. "You don't know what love is.
Just remember this, Ginger. Love is unselfish, it's doing
things for other people and not asking them to do things
for you. If you really loved me, you'd let me go. You'd
give me a divorce. You'd think of my happiness and not
your own. Gerry does. Now, go back to your own bed.
He stood up. Heavily he recrossed the room. He got
into his bed and lay down on his side, looking at the
darkness where she was. Unselfish. So that was what she
wanted. Some proof of devotion greater than self. Was
that the thing that would win her back? Was it? He
rolled over and stared at the invisible ceiling. Love is
unselfish. Was that what she had found lacking in his
love for her? Was that why Grosvenor, weeping but pre-
pared to wait, had won her instead? If only he could
think this out. If only his brain could puzzle out what she
had said and find the answer, that absolute answer he
felt he had almost grasped.
It was tiring to think. He was not used to thinking in
abstractions. But still was selflessness what he lacked?
Was that true love? Would the greatest proof of his love
for her be his willingness to sacrifice himself, the way
Jesus had sacrificed himself for mankind? Jesus con-
sidered that the highest form of love, didn't he? Well,
there you are, then.
"Vera?" he said.
"Go to sleep."
"Listen, Vera," he said. "I've made up my mind. If I
don't get that reporter's job at the end of this week,
I'll bow out. If I don't get it, you can go back to Gros-
venor and you can take Paulie. And 111 give you your
divorce into the bargain. Now, isn't that unselfish of me?
He waited for her answer. There was no answer. "I
mean it," he said. He did mean it.
Twelve Next morning he awoke on the cross of his
new obsession. He woke and went to work, a man who
had decided to gamble his all on one event. He started
fresh on that Wednesday morning, convinced that if he
got the job, all his worries would end. Veronica would
stay, Grosvenor would disappear, Paulie would be his
Apple again, his future would be assured.
And if he did not get die job? If he did not get the job
he would go down like a man. Lonely and proud, he
would cast himself adrift from all who knew him, his
boats burned forever. He would prove to her that he was
a man of his word, the most unselfish lover in all the
world, a man who could do a far, far better thing than
Grosvenor ever would.
Not that he thought he'd have to, mind you. No, he
was going to get the job, for sure. J. F. CoflFey, Journalist,
Coffey of the Tribune, why that was only a matter of
days and hours now. And so, that Wednesday morning,
fixed on the cross of his obsession, he began to measure
off those hours. As he drove through the city delivering
diapers, his mind moved from hopes to faits accomplis. By
mid-afternoon he had convinced himself that he had no
time to lose. For, since he was getting this new job on
Friday next, he should be starting his preparations now,
shouldn't he? Right, then. He had no time to lose.
At four-thirty that afternoon, his delivery route com-
pleted, he walked into the TINY ONES depot and gave
"What?" Mr. Mountain rose up in alarm, his great
stomach overlapping the military array of folders on the
desk. "What's the matter, Coffey, we not treating you
"It's not that, sir. It's just that this other job is more in
my line. The job with you was more or less a stopgap."
"Well, eff me," Mr. Mountain said. "Reporter, eh? What
"The Tribune, sir."
"The Tribune, eh?" Distractedly, Mr. Mountain ran
four plump fingers through the soft thickness of his de-
tergent-colored hair. "This puts me on a spot," he said.
"What am I going to tell the boss?"
"What do you mean?"
"Well, this is strictly classified info, Coffey, but the fact
is you're up for promotion."
"Mr. Brott himself is interested. Told me to keep you
happy. Said he was finding an office spot for you soon. It's
going to reflect on my department, you walking out like
. i .
Now that was nice to hear, wasn't it? Damn right it
was. He wished to goodness Veronica were in the room.
They want to keep me on and promote me. Well Vera,
what do you think of that?
"Look, I'm not unhappy with the job or with the way
I've been treated," Coffey told Mr. Mountain. Til be
glad to explain that to Mr. Brott, if you like."
"Tell you what," Mr. Mountain said. "I think this is a
case for top brass. Tell you what " He paused, staring
with great solemnity at Coffey. "I'm going to the boss
He picked up the phone, a man assuming command.
"Wait outside," he said.
So Coffey stepped outside. In a moment or two, Mr.
Mountain dashed to the door, beckoning him. "Wants to
speak to you himself" he whispered. "Mr. Brott."
He handed Coffey the telephone. At the other end of
the line a crackly, testy voice said: "That you, Coffey?
A. K. Brott here."
"What's this about quitting? Now, you listen to me.
You come right over here. I want to talk to you."
"But I have to start my night job, sir, I wouldn't be
able to manage "
"What time do you start?"
tcr, . .
"Give me Stan."
Coffey gave him Mr. Mountain. "Yessir," Mr. Moun-
tain said briskly. "Right, sir. Roger, sir. Thank you, sir."
He put the phone down. He picked up his hat, stared at
Coffey with some distaste. "Get in my car," he said.
"I've got to deliver you."
So they got in Mr. Mountain's car and drove up to the
TINY ONES head office. There was no conversation en
route: Mr. Mountain clearly believed this disruption in
the chain of command to be above and beyond the call of
duty. Coffey felt embarrassed. It was not Mr. Mountain's
job to chauffeur him. Especially when it was all a waste of
Among the display of ex-voto scenes in A. K. Brott's
office several advertising roughs were pasted on a board.
They bore a vaguely familiar slogan:
Why Buy? We Supply
TINY ONES INC.
"That's right," Mr. Brott said, pointing to the board. "I
checked into that idea, had a survey done and now I'm
ready to go. That's what I want to talk to you about.
What's this about you quitting?"
"I'm going to become a journalist, sir."
CC-V7 . 99
"Never saw a reporter in this province you couldn't
buy off for twenty bucks in a plain envelope. So, forget
that. You're a smart fella, Coffey, and I'm going to make
you a good offer. A once-in-a-lifetime offer take it or
Coffey fiddled with his little green hat. Nice to know
that old Brott thought well of him, but to tell the truth,
if he never saw a nappy again, it would be far too soon.
Still, it was a good omen, wasn't it? The tide was turning,
his luck had changed and surely, surely, in less than forty-
eight hours, MacGregor would come through and J. F.
Coffey, Journalist, Coffey of the Tribune
"Matter of fact, I should have acted sooner," Mr. Brott
said. "Just goes to show, in things like this you've got
to pee or get off the pot. So, okay. Here's what I'm going
to do. I'll make you my personal assistant at ninety bucks
Personal Assistant to the Managing Director of Kyle-
more Distilleries . . . Personal bumboy to old Cleery in
the advertising . . . glorified secretary at Coomb-Na-
Baun. Coffey stared at A. K. Brott's small gray face.
"No," he said in a strangled whisper.
"No? Look, what's the matter with you? Personal As-
sistant, do you realize the chance I'm giving you?"
"Do I?" Coffey echoed. "Fetch me this and fetch me
that. Run down for cigarettes. Book me a table. I'm no
glorified secretary, I'll have you know. I'm going to be a
reporter by the end of this week."
"Ah no," Coffey said. "What do you think I came to
this country for? Sure, didn't I leave a job as Personal
Assistant in a far bigger company than this this laun-
dry will ever be? No thank you."
"Well, that's your mistake," Mr. Brott said, shaking his
little gray head. "Rent-A-Crib now there you were us-
ing your head, Coffey. When a guy gives me a worth-
while idea, I like to pay for it. As my assistant, you could
have had yourself a nice steady job. Reporter? You're
nuts. Come on now?"
"No," Coffey said. "I want to be a reporter."
"Well, it's your funeral," A. K. Brott said. "Sorry you
feel this way. Stan?"
Mr. Mountain appeared in the doorway. "Yessir?"
"Stan, drive Coffey down to his newspaper. And get a
replacement. He's quit us. Take him off the payroll."
"Roger Dodger," said Mr. Mountain.
Personal Assistant! It just showed you, unless you had
the guts to believe in yourself, what you started off as you
would wind up as, even over here. Thanks be to God he
would never go back to that, thanks be to God he had
the strength to refuse once and for all. Glorified secretary,
indeed! Running errands now and forever more, amen.
Ah, shove your bloody Personal Assistant once and for
bloody all! Shove it!
"What's the matter with you? You look mad," Fox said.
"Nothing," Coffey said. "I was just thinking about some-
thing. I turned down a job today."
But Fox did not seem to hear. He fed two new galleys
in Coffey 's direction. "Let's get rolling," he said. "Old
Billy Davis has reported sick tonight. We're a man short."
"What's the matter with Old Bill?" Kenny asked.
"A cold, he says."
Blast Old Billy, Coffey thought. What's he getting sick
for when I need him here? But a cold was nothing. No
need to panic, was there? Right, then. He picked up a
Next morning, Coffey broke the breakfast silence with
an announcement. "This is my last day on the delivery
job," he said.
"What happened?" Veronica wanted to know. "Did
they lay you off?"
Now, wasn't that typical?
"They did not," he said. "I resigned. Matter of fact
they offered to promote me and take me into the office.
That's how well they think of me, if you want to know."
"And you resigned?"
"Too right, I did. I told you, I'm going on the editorial
staff of the Tribune as of next week. Friday will be my last
night in the proofroom."
"Honestly, Daddy?" Paulie said. It was the first direct
word she had spoken to him in days.
"Yes, Pet. Word of honor."
"Oh, that's super," Paulie said, looking pleased. "Then
you and I can go skiing. Remember, you promised?"
"Don't count your chickens," Veronica said to Paulie.
"And hurry now, you'll be late for school."
Don't count your chickens . . . Wasn't that the height
of her, putting the child against him every chance she
got? But he would not let her annoy him. He went off
to his last day of TINY ONES deliveries and spent it hap-
pily, settling up his accounts with the housewives on his
route. Naturally, he told all his customers the good news.
And the ladies were impressed. A reporter, now that was
a glamorous job, one woman said. And another said he
was a credit to his family. Yes, they congratulated him,
wished him the best of luck and one or two of them even
offered him a tip. Which was well meant, not mortifying
at all; there was no harm in it. He took the money so as not
to hurt their feelings and bought candies for all the little
boys on his route.
At four sharp, he turned over his uniform, his accounts
and his truck to Mr. Mountain. At four-thirty, after saying
good-by to Corp and the other lads, he walked out of
the depot, a free man. By six he was at the Tribune, ready
for a good night's work, his hopes high, his obsession well
stoked. And at five past six hooray! Fox came in with
a brand-new proofreader.
A new man. Coffey studied him. He was elderly, the
new man. He wore long combinations under his rolled-up
shirt sleeves and he read the first galley as carefully as if
it were his own insurance policy. Ah, good man your-
self, New Man. You'll do. A night to learn the ropes and
Ginger Coffey will give you all the hand you want. And
lend a hand he did, hitching his steel chair close to the
new man's, keeping a brotherly eye on the new man's per-
MacGregor came at ten, did not look at Coffey, ex-
amined the new man's work with his customary dis-
pleasure, said that Old Billy Davis was still sick, and
passed on out of the composing room. Later, Fox told
them that Old Billy had flu.
"Flu," Coffey said. "Sure, that's nothing/'
"Old Billy's seventy-two, you know," Fox said.
Coffey put that worry out of his mind. Next morning,
when he woke, he believed his only remaining trial was
how to wait out the day. For it was Friday. Maf eking Re-
lieved. Irish Guards Pull Out. He lay late, listening to the
indistinct mumble of his womenfolk in the kitchen, half
wishing that he had a day of diaper deliveries to occupy
him until the news came through this afternoon.
At half past eight, just before she left for work, Veron-
ica put her head in the bedroom door. "Isn't today the
day you expect to be promoted?" she said.
"Didn't I tell you it was!"
"You did, Ginger. You also made a promise to me the
other night in bed. Do you still feel that way?"
"You never even answered me the other night," he said,
"What was the use answering you, when you'll renege
on it for certain."
"Did I say I'd renege on it?" he asked her.
"Well are you going to?"
"I am not," he said. "As I told you the other night, if I
don't get that job today you can have your divorce and
Paulie and all the rest of it. I'll show you who's selfish!"
"Do you mean that, Ginger? Honestly and truly?"
"I do," he said. "But I am getting the job, don't forget.
"All right. I was only asking. I wanted to see if you
She went out. He lay for a while, thinking of their ex-
change. Wasn't that women for you, never letting on
they heard a word and then, two days later, coming out
with the whole thing. So she thought he'd renege, did
she? Well, he'd show her. Not that he'd have to, of course.
Of course not.
He lay abed, listening as Paulie left for school in her
usual, late-flying rush. Then he got up, shaved and
dressed with the care of a man preparing for some court
function. His only worry, as he saw it, was how to wait
until four. At four, the night staff were entitled to go and
pick up their pay checks. And as all staff changes were
reported on payday in the pay office, Hennen would know.
But, flute! It was a long, long morning.
At a quarter to four, having already waited fifteen min-
utes in the corridor, Coffey went into the Tribune business
office and idled by the cashier's wicket, trying to catch
Mr. Hennen's eye. Mr. Hennen, an old bird in his cage,
busied himself with his ledgers, aware of Coffey, but de-
termined to make him wait each agonizing second until
the hour. The office clock's second hand circled, the min-
ute hand jerked up one black notch, the hour hand
moved imperceptibly closer. At the precise moment that
all three reached the hour, Coffey stepped up to the
wicket. Mr. Hennen laid down his pen, fussed with his
black sleeve protectors and looked in Coffey's direction.
"Name?" he shouted.
"J. F. Coffey."
Mr. Hennen riffled through a sheaf of pay checks and
slipped one through the wicket. "Don't spend it all at
once," he said.
"By the way I ah I wonder if you'd have a
note about a staff change?" Coffey said. "A transfer for
Mr. Hennen cocked his old parrot head to one side.
"Transfer?" He opened another ledger and took out four
little yellow slips. He riffled through them. "These here
are all the new staff changes. Your name's not in."
"Perhaps it hasn't come down yet?"
"All changes came in at noon. So it won't be for next
"But Mr. MacGregor promised me . . "
"Did he now?" Mr. Hennen said, and winked.
Coffey turned from that wicked parrot eye, afraid.
What did that wink mean? Surely . . .
"Hey, wait a minute/' Mr. Hennen said. "One of your
fellas is sick. Phoned up, wants someone to take his check
over to him. Let's see. Davis is the name. Want to take it
Old Billy. There was the reason he had not been pro-
moted. That was what Mr. Hennen knew and had not
said. Coffey went back to the wicket, heartsick with an-
ger against old doddering Bill. Why did he have to get
sick this week, of all weeks? It was not fair. Bloody Old
Bill! "All right," he said. "HI take it to him/'
Mr. Hennen passed over an addressed envelope and
Coffey went out into the streets again. Bill's place was a
room over a small clothing store, in a street three blocks
from the Tribune offices. The landlord, an aged French-
Canadian who spoke no English, looked at W. DAVIS on
the pay envelope, then nodded and led Coffey up the
back stairs to a door at the end of a dark corridor. Coffey
"Come in," an old voice called.
The room reminded Coffey of Veronica's, but there was
a difference. Old Billy had lived here a long time. There
was a small electric hotplate, an old icebox, a green card
table on which a large orange cat licked its paws. The walls
were shelved with many books in fruit-crate containers.
There were several snapshots on the walls, and an in-
genious device of extension cords and three-way plugs so
that Old Billy could turn on and off the lights from any
chair or corner. On the bed lay the master of the room, his
frail body invisible beneath a heap of quilts, his plumy
goatee jutting upwards in the direction of the water-
stained ceiling. "It's Paddy, isn't it?" he said. "Did you
bring my check, Paddy?"
Coffey removed a fold-up chair from the stack beside
the card table. The cat made a hissing noise of dislike.
The chair had not been opened for many a year; dust
lay thick in its crevices; its hinged joints were stiff. He put
it at the head of the bed and sat down. He handed over
Frail old fingers fumbled with the flap. "Full check/'
Old Billy said. "Didn't dock me sick pay, I see. Good. And
how are you, lad? What's new?"
Coffey did not answer. He looked at the old man's arm,
protruding from a worn pajama sleeve. On the skeletal
wrist was a faded tattoo. A harp, a shamrock and a faint
script: ERIN Go BRAGH. Above this tattoo was another, a
heart pierced by an arrow, and entwined with a motto:
BILL LOVES MIN.
"Are you Irish, Billy?" Coffey said. "That harp?"
"Course I'm Irish," Old Billy said. "William O'Brien
Davis. Fine Irish name."
"But you were born over here?"
"No, sir. I'm an immigrant, same as you. Donegal man,
born and bred. Came out here when I was twenty years
old, looking for the streets that were paved with gold."
Billy's mouth opened in a chuckle, showing his hard old
gums. "Yes," he said. "I've been all over, Atlantic to Pa-
cific and back again. Been north of the Circle too, and
down south as far as the Gulf of Mexico. Yes, I been all
over the States; seen them all, all forty-eight. Never found
any gold streets, though. No sir."
But Coffey did not join in the old man's laugh. He
stared at that skeletal forearm. BILL LOVES MIN. Where
and in what long ago had Bill loved Min? Where was Min
now? How many years had Old Bill lain here in this room,
watched over only by the inhuman, unblinking eyes of his
"Yes, all I got to show now is forty dollars a month on
the Old Age pension," Bill said. "A man can't live on that
nowadays. Even me, and I don't hardly eat but a bowl of
Campbell's Soup once a day. And beer. Beer's what keeps
me going. That's why this proofreading job was such a
blessing. Lots of beer."
"But you still have the proofreading job," Coffey said.
"We've been expecting you back tonight."
"Not tonight," Old Billy said. He touched his chest.
"Got something in here, the doctor says. I've got to rest."
"But you'll be back," Coffey said. "In a day or two "
"It was the Tribune doctor who saw me," Old Bill said.
"They have my number. Hear they hired a new man al-
"The new man's not a replacement for you," Coffey
said. "He's my replacement. They're making me a reporter
next week. Now, listen, Bill. Tonight, I'm going to see
MacGregor, I'll tell him you'll be back in a day or two.
You'll be up and about in no time."
The old man's eyes had closed. He appeared to be
"Bill, listen?" Coffey said. "Bill, are you asleep?"
"Plenty of time to sleep," the old voice said. "Not much
else to do but sleep when you're living on the Old Age. Be
all right, though. I've got all my things here. Bowl of
soup, that's good enough. And a beer. The odd beer . . ."
His toothless mouth remained open on that sentence.
His hand, holding the pay check, slid over the quilt and
bumped against Coffey's knee. The envelope fell on the
floor. Carefully, Coffey picked it up and put it on the card
table. Carefully, he leaned over the old face. Yes, Bill was
"I'll be back, Bill," Coffey said in a whisper. He lifted
up the skeletal arm, covered it with the quilt. Yes, J. F.
Coffey, Journalist, would come back; oh yes, Billy, I prom-
ise you, I'll come back every week, I won't forget you. I'll
bring beer. Every time, a case of beer.
But would he? Another promise. Would he Judas Old
Billy along with the rest of them? For Old Billy might not
come back to work. Old Billy might never be back. Coffey
tiptoed to the door, opened it with infinite precaution,
and went out into the dark corridor.
Irish. An immigrant, same as you. A young wanderer,
once, traveling through this land of ice and snow, looking
for the bluebird. ERIN Go BRAGH. But was it really ERIN
FOREVER? What trace of Erin was left on William O'Brien
Davis save that harp and shamrock, that motto, faded as
the old reminder that BILL LOVES MIN? Would Ginger
Coffey also end his days in some room, old and used, his
voice nasal and reedy, all accent gone? "Yes, I'm Irish.
James Francis Coffey. Fine Irish name."
No, no, that wasn't going to happen to him. Not to J. F.
Coffey, Journalist. Never mind Old Billy, he was going to
get that reporting job. Tonight he was. It was all ar-
ranged. He wasn't going to wait for MacGregor to speak
to him, he must speak to MacGregor himself, remind him
yes, MacGregor was a busy man, it might have slipped
his mind. And a promise is a promise. So, all right then.
Because it was pay night, Fox and the others had spent
their usual two hours in the tavern before coming to work.
This meant that only Coffey and the New Man were not
under the weather. So Coffey read the major number of
galleys before the first edition. He and the New Man
were working at the same desk, sober men and true. Ah,
New Man! Good man yourself. You front-line troop relief!
At ten, when supper bell sounded, MacGregor had not
put in an appearance. Coffey could wait no longer. He
went to the office. But MacGregor was in conference with
the telegraph editor, which meant that Coffey had to wait
in the corridor until ten past ten. At last, when the tele-
graph editor went out, in went Coffey.
"What do you want?" MacGregor said.
"It's the two weeks, sir. It's up, as of tonight."
"What two weeks?"
You see! It had slipped MacGregor's mind; so it was a
lucky thing Coffey had decided to take the bull by the
horns, wasn't it? Glad that he had come, he spoke up.
"You remember, sir, about making me a reporter? You
promised two weeks ago."
"Aye," MacGregor said. "Well, we're still short-staffed
in the proofroom, as you know. Man sick."
"Yes, sir. But I went to see Old Billy Davis today and
he's feeling much better. He'll be back to work in a day or
two at the latest. Now I wondered, in view of that, per-
haps you'd make the change now and start me off as a re-
porter next week?"
"But I've been expecting it," Coffey said, feeling his
face grow hot. "I've been counting on it, sir. I hardly think
it s tair.
"Fair? What? What the hell are you talking about?
Now go on take your arse out of here before I kick it
"No!" Coffey said, in a sudden shocked rage. "You
made me a promise. I've been working like a bloody slave
for the past three weeks in hopes of this. I gave up another
job because of it. I promised my wife and daughter. You
don't know how much this means to me, sir. It's very im-
"Clarence?" MacGregor shouted. The fat man rushed
in, notebook at the ready. "Now, Coffey," MacGregor
said. "Tell it to us again."
"You promised me," Coffey said, feeling his tongue
thick and confused. "You promised that you'd promote
me as soon as you had a replacement in the proofroom.
Well, that new proofreader's been here three days now.
He's a good man too."
"What new reader?"
"Rhodes, sir," Clarence said. "Replacement for old
"But Billy's coming back," Coffey began. "He needs the
job. You're not going to throw him "
"Doctor said bronchial trouble, sir," Clarence told his
"Aye." MacGregor nodded his head. "Bronchial trou-
ble. He won't be back."
"But you promised me." Coffey turned to Clarence.
"You were here. You heard him."
"I don't recall any promise," Clarence said.
"Aye," MacGregor said. "Go on back to your desk, Cof-
"No, it's not fair! Dammit, is that the way you keep
your word?" Coffey shouted.
"Perhaps I'd better phone the lobby, sir," Clarence said.
"And ask them to send Ritchie up."
Ritchie? Ritchie was the doorman. A blackness sealed
Coffey's eyes. For a moment he stood, dizzy, their voices
fading in his ears. Doorman? To throw him out?
". . . had quite enough of this," MacGregor's voice
said. "Now go on back to your wurrk or you'll not be
"That's it, fella," Clarence said. A hand took Coffey's
arm. "Come on, now."
"No," Coffey said. "Dammit, no!"
"Listen to me, you." The blackness cleared from in front
of Coffey's eyes and he saw MacGregor leaning across the
desk. A large blue vein pumped in MacGregor's pale, bony
skull. "If you think I have any notion of making you a re-
porter after the way you carried on tonight, you're sadly
mistaken. Now, get back to that proof desk and thank
your stars I don't kick your arse right out of this building.
Is that clear?"
Clear? He shook himself free of Clarence's arm. He
turned back into the corridor. The composing room bell
shrilled, calling the readers back to work. Dazed, he
walked towards the sound of the bell.
The new proofreader, Mr. Rhodes, was surprised at the
difference in the Irishman's behavior when the Irishman
came back from his supper break. Until now he had
thought of the Irishman as the hardest-working, most re-
spectable man on the shift, the only one you would not be
ashamed to introduce to your friends. Obliging, sober,
well-spoken, not cursing and half drunk like the rest of
Mr. Rhodes was on pension from the railroad and had
only taken this job to help his wife make payments on a
little place they were buying up North. He had been un-
pleasantly surprised by the class of man he found himself
working with, and, in fact, would have resigned the sec-
ond night had it not been for the Irishman's helping hand
and courtesy. But now, when the big fellow came back
and sat down at the desk beside Rhodes, he began to
show signs that he might be every bit as unstable as the
others. For one thing, he hardly did a tap of work for the
rest of the shift. He sat there, his face like a wooden idol,
muttering filthy language under his breath. Had he too
been drinking, Rhodes wondered? Indeed, it would be no
surprise, for in all Rhodes's years in the railroad's ac-
counting department, he had never met such a low class
of man as Fox or Harry or that young lad with the ec-
zema. So at the end of the night's work, when he heard
the big fellow say that he would go out for drinks with the
rest of them well, thought Rhodes, I was mistaken, he's
a bum like the others. No money was worth it, to be forced
to spend your retirement years in the company of men like
these. No. Next Friday, Rhodes decided, 111 give notice.
"Come on, Paddy," Harry said. "We have a jug at
They stood on the steps of the Tribune building. Down
the street, brightlit in the night silence, a sign winked on
and off. FIVE-MINUTE LUNCH. "Rose?" Coffey said.
"Rose of the rosy teats," Fox shouted. "Come on, lads."
The Five-Minute Lunch was open all night. There, un-
der the rumble of transcontinental trains leaving on track,
arriving on track, gathered a nightly cross-section of city
owls. Bus drivers on the late trick, their change machines
extracted and placed carefully beside their coffee and
eggs; colored sleeping car porters from the railroad termi-
nus across the street, magpie collections of abandoned
newspapers and magazines stuffed in the handles of
their overnight bags; consumptive-looking French-Cana-
dian waiters stealing a break from the boredom of fifth-
rate nightclubs; middle-aged whores, muffled in babush-
kas, snow boots and sensible wool scarves, condemned
by the winter to come in often out of the cold; night
postal clerks; ticket collectors; cleaning men. And behind
the long mica-and-chrome serving-counter, under framed,
hand-lettered cards WESTERN SANDWICH, KNACKWURST
& BEANS, SPAGHETTI & MEATBALLS the queen of this
night hive moved, never off her paining feet, never hur-
ried, never done. Rose Alma Briggs.
"Rosy, dear/' Fox said, rapping his cane on the counter.
Rose sent two eggs, sunny side up, flipping onto a plate.
She turned, acknowledged the greeting with a nod. She
was powdered and clean; she wore a white nylon coat,
white rubber shoes and white lisle stockings. Under the
transparent coat, a white slip. And biting tight into the
soft pink flesh of her fat soft shoulders, white straps like
tiny tent ropes converged to a double support of the mam-
mary mountains trembling in bondage underneath.
"Evening, Mr. Fox. What'll it be?"
"Ever practical," Fox said. "We will have the usual.
Three times. This is our co-worker, Mr. Coffey."
"Pleased to meet you," Rose said. She opened a glass
jar, removed three pickled eggs, put three slices of rye
bread on three plates; then, turning again, looked at Cof-
fey. "What's the matter with him?" she asked Fox.
"He needs cheering, that's all," Fox said. "Go, lovely
Rose, bring us that which cheers and doth inebriate."
"Now watch yourself," Rose said. "The Provincials was
in here last night. They'll be back."
"We'll wu-watch it," Harry assured her. "Give us tu-
two cu-Cokes to color it."
From beneath the counter, Rose took a large paper
bag, added two Coke bottles to its contents, and handed
the bag to Harry. Fox led the way into a small back room
near the toilet. The bag was opened and a large bottle
was placed on the table. The label read: Vin Canadien-
Type-Sherry. Fox uncorked it and drank several swal-
lows. "Now, Harry," he said. "Pour the Cokes in. And if
any policeman pays a call we are enjoying the pause
that refreshes. Right?"
"Right," Harry said. The Cokes were added and full
glassfuls distributed. "Du-drink up," Harry said.
Coffey picked up his drink. It tasted sweetish but not
strong. He drank it down and poured another. Yes, what
matter if he got drunk? Drink and these companions
would be his future life. Down, down, down, all his boats
burned. He had failed. Now he must do a far, far better
thing . . .
"Count your blessings," Fox told him. "Think of Old
Billy. You have your health and strength/'
He drank a third glass, not listening. Alone he would
be, an ancient mariner who had looked for the bluebird.
He would grow a feathery goatee, his voice would change,
nasal and reedy. Old Ginger Coffey, fifty years a reader,
a man in humble circs. He stared through the open door-
way at the customers in the outer room. Humble circs, all
of them. How many of them had dreamed, as he had
once, of adventures, of circs not humble in the least? And
what had happened to those dreams of theirs? Ah Dear
God, what did you do when you could no longer dream?
How did you reconcile yourself to those humble circs?
"Suffering J," he said. "So this is what it's like."
"What what' s like?" Fox said, pouring.
"The bottom. The dustbin. The end of the road."
"Bottom?" Fox shouted. "Why, you don't know what
bottom is, Paddy. Now, take me. Three years ago you
could find me up the street outside Windsor Station, pan-
handling dimes at two in the morning. Without an over-
coat, mind you, and the weather at zero. That's bottom,
Paddy. Bottom is a dime. A dime and a dime and a dime
until you can buy your peace of mind in the large jug of
Bright's Hermitage Port. Bottom is when your clothes are
too far gone for anyone not to notice, and there's no
chance of a job because they do notice. Bottom is that,
Paddy. Not this. Why, this is regular employment,"
"Bottom's when you lose your wife," Coffey said thickly.
"That's bottom. Bottom's when bloody liars make prom-
ises and bloody wife-stealers run off with your wife. Bot-
tom's this bloody country, snow and ice, bloody hell on
"Yu-you leave Cu-Canada out of this," Harry said
menacingly. "Gu-goddamn immigrants. Go on back where
you came from."
"No, we have room for all sorts," Fox said. "We're the
third largest country in the world, remember. We need
our quota of malcontents."
"I'm sorry," Coffey said thickly. "Didn't mean to in-
sult you fellows. Thinking about my wife. Not Canada.
Leave Canada out of this."
"He doesn't want to talk about Canada," Fox said.
"Leave Canada out. There you have the Canadian di-
lemma in a sentence. Nobody wants to talk about Can-
ada, not even us Canadians. You're right, Paddy. Can-
ada is a bore."
"No, I didn't mean that," Coffey said. "I'm just lis-
ten, I've just lost my wife. And my little girl. Lost them/'
But Fox was not listening. "Poor old Canada," he
wailed. "Not even a flag to call its own. Land of Eskimo
and Mountie, land of beaver and moose "
Coffey poured another glass and tried to stand up. Suf-
fering J, what was in this wine, what's the matter? His
legs felt like melting wax. How could he go home tonight
to tell her that he would keep his word? How could he
make his lonely exit in dignity, and him half drunk? Ah,
"Sit down," Fox shouted.
He turned towards the shouting voice, confused. "Must
go," he said.
"Sit down!" Fox's cane caught him a smart blow behind
his woozy knees and Coffey sat down. "I'm speaking to
you, you bogman, you!" Fox shouted.
In trembling pain Coffey leaned across the table, inches
from his tormentor's stubbled face. Cruel cripple doom-
sayer! He bunched his fist, raising it to strike that yelling
"Now don't hit me. Don't!" Fox shouted.
Dully, Coffey lowered his fist. At once Fox picked up
the wine jug, swinging it in a menacing sweep. "Don't you
dare walk out on me," he yelled. "I can't stand people
walking out on me!"
White shoes, soundless on their rubber soles, moved up
behind Fox. Rose Alma Briggs deftly caught the swinging
jug. "That's enough of that," she said.
"Oh, Rose of all the world," Fox shouted. "Go, lovely
Rose moved behind him, reached under his armpits, set
him tottering on his feet. "Out," she said. "That's an or-
der. And this is the last time you use my place as a wine
drop, any of you. Come on, Harry. Help him."
For an instant Fox's glazed eyes grew bright with rage.
He gripped his cane, raising it like a club; held it sus-
pended over the table for a moment, then lowered it.
"No," he said. "No violence. No police. No doctors. Give
me liberty or give me death, right, Rose? Yes, Rose. Yes,
all. Good night, all."
Harry took his arm. Together they threaded their way
among the tables of the outer room. The street door
opened with a huff of wind, then banged shut as the
drunkards met the winter snow, circling like lost birds on
the pavement. Rose Alma turned to Coffey. "Poor man,"
she said. "He was in the asylum, you know. Dee-Tees."
She bent and began to stack the dishes on the table. "You
don't want to get mixed up with the likes of them. They're
Coffey felt for a chair and sat down. His legs were trem-
bling, the sweat on his brow was cold, his head felt swol-
len and heavy. "Not mixed up," he said drunkenly. "This
job just a stopgap, you see. Tin a New Canadian, you
Rose looked at him. "You married?"
"Well, why don't you go home to your wife then? It's
He put his hands up; felt his face fall into them. He
rested his face in his hands. "My wife's leaving me," he
"No wonder," Rose said, "if you carry on like this."
"I didn't carry on. She did."
"Maybe she had a reason; did you ever think of that?
Now, go on home."
He raised his face from his hands. Two Rose Almas
stacked dishes, side by side. "A reason?" he said.
"Carrying on like this," said the double images of Rose.
"You men. Do you know what women have to put up
with? Now, go on home."
"Home?" he said. "I have no home," he told them.
"Where do you sleep then?"
"In my own bed. Not allowed in hers, you see."
"Come on now." The two Roses came close to him.
They raised him up. He tried to focus on the outer
room. There were twins of all the customers. He rubbed
his eyes, trying to make them come together, but they,
like Rose, remained bifocal. "Come with me," Rose said.
"Watch out for those girls over there. You don't want to
get in trouble, now do you?"
"What girls?" he said. "Where girls?"
Rose took his arm, led him across the room, past the
whores' table. "Have a girl," he said. "My own little girl.
Going to lose her now."
"No, you won't," Rose said. "Now, come on. Bus stop's
right across the street. You got a ticket?"
He nodded, not hearing, hearing only words.
"You'll feel better tomorrow/' her voice said. "Things
will look better then/'
"No." He stopped, turned to her, his face pale and con-
fused. Behind that large trembly dignity, behind that mil-
itary fagade of mustache and middle age, Rose Alma saw
his true face. Like a boy, she thought. Lost.
"Never better now," he mumbled. "Got to give them up
. . . promised . . . word of honor . . . word of
honor. My Paulie too. Growing up. Trouble with boys. I
made mess that too."
"Never mind," Rose Alma said. "They need you. Go
She opened the cafe door and suddenly he faced the
street. A gust of wind struck a nearby rooftop, whirling a
powdery gust down to blind him, covering his mustache
and eyebrows with a fine white granulation. Aged white
in one moment, old Coffey crossed the street, stumbling
over a snowbank, headed for two street lamps, each la-
beled with a tin sign: BUS. BUS. He was going home, wake
Veronica, renounce her and then, lonely, his barque cast
adrift, he would leave again, going into the Arctic night,
condemned forever to this land of ice and snow, this hell
on earth, alone forever in his Y.M.C.A. room . . .
He tried to focus down the street, looking for a bus. No
bus. Instead, a huge trailer truck came uphill, red warn-
ing lights aflicker, a groaning giant condemned to move
at night. It drew near and, bifocally, two tiny drivers
looked down on Coffey from their high-riding cabs.
The driver looked out, saw the man standing under the
lamp, tiny green hat snow-matted, his mustache and eye-
brows white, peering up, a lost drunk night-face. The
great truck rode on.
A night wind crossed the frozen river, whirled along the
empty ice-locked docks, rushed into the street. Coffey
bent his head to the wind and, cold, confused, began to
feel a natural urge which would not wait. The street was
quiet. Only in the Five-Minute Lunch was there light.
Still trying to focus, he peered at the buildings on his side,
looking for a lane. There was no lane. But there was a
large darkened doorway, some office building entrance,
he thought, and there, unable to wait any longer, he
stepped into the shadows.
A police prowl car turned the corner from the railroad
goods depot behind the station, its tires noiseless in the
thick night snow. In the front seat, two uniformed consta-
bles looked over at Rose's place, then swept their search-
light beam along the front of the hotel opposite. The con-
stable who was not driving rolled down the window and
stopped the searchlight glare on what lie saw. In the main
doorway, legs apart, head bent in humble concentration, a
"Tu vois ga?" the constable said to his colleague.
"Calvaire!" the driver said, revving his engine.
Coffey, fumbling to adjust his dress, heard the engine
sound. Still blinded by the harsh eye which had picked
him out, he did not see the constable but felt a hand
touch his elbow.
"Viens id, toi" the constable said.
The constable did not reply, but led him towards the
waiting prowl car. The other constable sat quiet at the
"What do you think you're doing?" the first constable
Coffey told him. "Just waiting for the bus, waiting a
long time, you see, so I had a call of nature. I mean, there
was nobody "
"You hadmit the oohfense?" the second constable said
in a strong French-Canadian accent.
"Well now, look here "
"Where do you work?"
Constable One looked at Constable Two. This was a
matter for caution. Police and press relations. "What do
you do there, sir?" said Constable One.
"Proofreader. Galley slave."
"C'quil dit?" the second constable asked the first.
"Zero" said the first.
"He's been drinkin' the wine," the second constable
said, sniffing Coffey.
"Well, I was with some friends Look here, officer
Ah now, for the love of God, man, be fair. I'm not drunk."
"Get in the car."
"Ah now, we don't have to do that, we can settle this,
The first constable seized Coffey's left wrist and jerked
it up against his back, bending Coffey double. In that way
he was led towards the car. "Get in!"
So he got in and the first policeman got in the back be-
side him. The car started its engine, the police radio
crackled and the driver made a report to radio control as
they drove through the deserted streets. The report was in
French, so Coffey did not understand it.
At the police station they made him wait. He sat on a
bench, staring at a room full of two-headed policemen.
Veronica must not know. Paulie must not know. Must get
out of this. Just a fine or a warning, probably. Now see
here, Sergeant . . . Reason with them. Och, now, listen
to me sergeant, married man, little girl and wife, one over
the eight, no harm meant, hmm?
But still . . . there were so many tabloid weeklies in
this cursed city. Suppose it were reported in one of them.
All full of rape they were, and other sexual misdemean-
ors . . .
He exhaled, feathering up the ends of his large mus-
tache. IMMIGRANT CHARGED WITH DISORDERLY
CONDUCT. A nice thing for Paulie to see. Nice thing in-
deed. Flute! You're not going to let that happen, are you?
Not likely. He'd give a false name, that's what he would
do. False name, that was the ticket. With any luck he'd
get a fine and be home by morning. Right, then!
The double images had diminished to single ones by the
time he was called up to the sergeant's desk. "Name and
address?" said the sergeant.
"Gerald MacGregor," Coffey said, and gave the address
of Madame Beaulieu's duplex.
The desk sergeant started a long conversation in French
with the radio car officers. They reached an agreement.
"Okay," the sergeant said to them. He turned to Coffey.
"We're not booking you on a vag," he said. "We're going to
book you for indecent exposure. That's the charge."
"Wait a minute, sergeant," Coffey said. "Couldn't we
settle this here it was all an accident. A mistake."
"Now, put all what's in your pockets in this bag," the
"Ah now, wait sergeant "
"And take your tie off."
"Ah, sergeant, ah now, listen, I'm an immigrant here, I
didn't know it was any crime "
"And give me your belt."
"Sergeant, did you hear me? Listen I'm a married
man with a little girl. Ah God, you've no right to enter a
thing like that in the record/'
"Prends-lui" the sergeant said to the jailer. "Numero
The jailer took him in the back and led him down a
flight of stairs. A detective was coming up. They stopped
to let him pass. The detective, a fat young man with a
crew cut and a mustache almost as large as Coffey's,
stopped and said: "Le gars, cquil a fait, lui?"
The jailer laughed. "A fait pisser juste dans la grande
porte du Royal Family Hotel"
"Oh-hoh!" the detective said, grinning at Coffey.
"What's de matter? You don' like the English, eh? Or the
Royal Family? Or maybe you just don* like the hotel?"
"What what do you mean?" Coffey said. "What does
he mean?" he asked the jailer.
"Move your ass," the jailer said. He pushed Coffey to-
wards the last flight of steps, led him along a corridor and
unlocked the door of a cell. There were two men sleeping
inside. Coffey, undignified, holding up his trousers with
both hands, made one last appeal to justice. "Listen to
me," he said. "Please, will you let me speak to the sergeant
"Don' piss on de other boys in here," the jailer said,
shoving him in. "Dey won' like it."
The cell door shut. The lock turned. The jailer went
back upstairs. Sick, Coffey let his trousers sag as he
groped for and found a bench. He sat down, hearing the
harsh cough of his cellmate. The cell was clean but stank
of beer or wine or something. Or, was it he who . . . ? He
did not know. One floor above him he heard the police-
men walking about, talking, laughing at an occasional
sally or bit of horseplay. Up there, just one flight of stairs,
men were free. While down here Oh God! Childish
memories of being shut in a closet, of calling out to play-
mates who had run away, of beating on the door, unan-
swered: these swam in on him now, making it impossible
to say Chin up, Steady as she goes, or any of the rest of it.
Ever since he could remember he had read of prison sen-
tences in secret dread. Jail. Yes, they could send him to
jail. O God, he prayed. . . .
O Who? What did God care, if there were a God? Or
was it God who had pulled the rug out, once and for all,
who had now decided to show him once and for all that
he had been a lunatic to have hopes, that his ship would
never come in, that he had lost his wife and child forever?
Steady. Steady as she goes, he told himself. Don't panic.
Steady on there.
But it was no good. Upstairs, the policemen broke out
another round of laughter. He put his face in his hands,
his lower teeth biting into the hair on his upper lip. Ah no,
no, there was no sense blaming a God he could not believe
in, there was no sense blaming anyone. Vera was right. He
was to blame. If he had been content with his lot at home,
he would never have come out to this cursed country. If
he had never come out here, he would not have lost Ve-
ronica to Grosvenor; Paulie would not be running around
with young hoodlums older than she. If he had not come
out here, he would not be a proofreader with no hope of
advancement, he would not be in jail tonight. Why hadn't
he gone straight home? Whose fault was it he was drunk?
Yes, his fault. What a bloody fool he had been giving
that wrong name and address. They had put his belong-
ings in a bag but if they looked in his wallet they would
crucify him. He should call out now, go upstairs, apolo-
gize, get a lawyer, tell them his real name . . .
He went quickly to the cell door and peered out of the
small Judas window at the corridor. The window was
thick-glassed, with a wire netting grille. He could see no
one. He stepped back, trying to peer sideways down the
corridor and, as he did, he saw his own face, angled in the
reflection from the glass pane. He stared at that sad impos-
tor, at that hateful, stupid man. Yes, look at you, would
you? You that promised you would drop out of sight. You
that would do a far, far better thing, look at youl What
sort of man would call out now, what sort of man would
disgrace Veronica and Paulie because he was afraid of be-
ing locked up?
He stepped back into the darkness of the cell again. He
could not bear to look at that hateful, stupid man. He was
not that man. He was Ginger Coffey who had given a false
name to protect the innocent and now must take his pun-
He sat down, his trousers loose around his hips. It was
dark. He was afraid.
But oh! He knew something now, something he had not
known before. A man's life was nobody's fault but his
own. Not God's, not Vera's, not even Canada's. His own
fault. Mea culpa.
Thirteen Shortly after dawn someone in a nearby
cell began to beat on the door and call out in French. This
woke everyone up. The jailer came downstairs, unlocked
the cell and led the prisoner out. One of Coff ey's cellmates
wiped his nose on his sleeve and said: "They never learn/*
"What d you mean?"
"They'll take him up in the back room now and tire him
"Oh?" Coffey went to the cell door and listened. He
could hear no sound upstairs. He heard his third cellmate
say: "You bother them, they tire you, that's right. Just
keep quiet is the best."
Several minutes later the jailer brought back the man
who had been shouting. The man held both hands over
his stomach and his face was pale. After he had been
locked in again, he could be heard retching. Coffey's cell-
mates exchanged nods. One said: "In Bordeaux they beat
the shit out of you whether you bother them or not. Min-
ute you get in, they fix you."
"Where's Bordeaux?" Coffey asked.
"Provincial jail. What are you up for, Jack?"
"Ah I was taking a leak in the open last night and the
police found me."
"A vag?" The word was familiar. "No, it wasn't that
they called it. Indecent exposure, it was."
His cellmates exchanged glances. One of them coughed.
"Well/* he said. 'Td rather it was you, not me/'
At eight o'clock a bell rang. A jailer came down to the
cells, called a roll from a typewritten list and ordered the
prisoners to line up at their cell doors. Several other po-
licemen appeared. The prisoners were marched upstairs
and CofFey, with three other men, was put in a waiting
room. There was a policeman in the room. One of the pris-
oners begged a light.
"NO TALKING!" shouted the policeman.
At eight thirty-one, Coffey and three others were taken
to the back door of the police station. A van was backed
into the alley, its engine running. A policeman helped
them up, a second policeman handed the driver a list and
the doors of tfye Black Maria were locked. There were al-
ready two prisoners in the van and it stopped at three po-
lice stations in the next half hour. By the time it reached a
courthouse somewhere in the harbor area, the van was
crowded with men and smelled of alcohol and sweat. They
were disembarked in a yard and, as they waited to be
marched away, Coffey saw a newspaper kiosk in the street
outside, its walls plastered with tabloid headlines. One of
CADI SENTENCES "FOUL EXPOSER"
MERCY PLEA REJECTED
Suffering J! Better they sentence him to jail than Paulie
ever read the like of that. This was his fault. Everything
was his fault. He must pay for it himself.
"Right ," said a warder. "MARCH!"
One of the prisoners, an old man, said: "Is there a toilet
inside? I need to go to the toilet/'
The warder turned and bellowed as though struck:
"NO TALKING IN THE CORRIDORS."
They were marched downstairs and locked up.
Above the judge there was a large crucifix. The Christ
figure seemed to recline, head to one side, as though try-
ing to catch the half-audible mumble of the clerk of the
"Criminal Code . . . Statute . . . Section . . . Said
Gerald MacGregor . . . night of ... premises . . . did
indecently expose himself as witness . . ."
A lawyer, arriving late, entered the courtroom and hur-
ried up the aisle, shaking hands with his colleagues. The
reporters on the press bench were reading a newspaper
called Le Devoir: they did not appear to have paid atten-
tion to the charge. The judge, a florid man who might
have been mistaken for a bookmaker, was having trouble
with his Parker pen. He signaled a court functionary,
who went through the door leading to the judge's cham-
bers. A detective-sergeant came in and stood beneath the
judge, waiting. The clerk of the court finished his mumble
and sat down. The judge unscrewed his Parker pen, and
noticed the waiting detective-sergeant. The sergeant
stepped forward and whispered. The judge looked at Cof-
"Swear the accused," he said.
Coffey was sworn in. The judge said: "Now is your
name Gerald MacGregor?"
CoflFey looked desperately at the crucifix over the
judge's bench. The Christ figure lent an ear: waiting.
"I warn you," the judge said. "No one by the name of
MacGregor lives at the address you have given. Do you
still say that is your name?"
In terror, Coffey looked at the detective-sergeant. Vera
and Paulie? must protect . . . "Yes, Your Honor," he
"All right/' The judge nodded to the sergeant. "Bring
your witness in."
The sergeant signaled to a court attendant and the
court attendant went outside. In her best blue coat, her
eyes downcast, Veronica was escorted to the bench. She
was sworn in. Her eyes met Coffey's, then flittered to-
wards the press bench. The reporters were taking notes
now. She gave her name and address.
"Is this man your husband?"
"What is his given name?"
"James Francis Coffey."
"You may stand down. Clerk, read the charge again in
the name of James Francis Coffey."
She went to a front seat and sat down. She looked up at
him and her fingers fluttered in a tiny, surreptitious greet-
ing. She was afraid.
"Now, Coffey," the judge said. "Why did you give a
"I ah I didn't want my wife and daughter mixed
up in this, you see."
"I do not see," the judge said. "You have heard the
charge. Have you any idea of the gravity of this charge?"
"Well, no, Your Honor. You see I mean, I wanted to
avoid I mean, it wasn't their fault. I didn't want them
to be worried."
"This charge," the judge said, "carries a maximum pen-
alty of seven years in prison/'
Coffey looked at Veronica. She seemed about to keel
over. Seven years.
"Well, Coffey? What do you have to say for yourself?"
"I I'm an immigrant here, Your Honor, and I've not
done very well getting settled. My wife . . ." He stopped
and looked at Veronica, who lowered her head, not an-
swering his look. "My wife and I had agreed to separate
unless I did better. I'd promised her that unless I got a
certain promotion, I'd let her go back to I mean, leave
me. And I promised she could take my daughter as well.
So last night, I didn't get the promotion, and so . . ."
He could not go on. He stood, looking down at her,
looking at the white nape of her neck beneath the hairline
of her new short haircut. The judge said: "What's all this
got to do with perjuring yourself ?"
"Well, I'd lost them anyway, Your Honor. I didn't want
them to suffer any more for what I'd done. So I thought of
a false name . . ."
The judge looked at the sergeant. "Is the prisoner rep-
resented by counsel?"
"A pas demande" the sergeant said.
"This case is being tried in English/' the judge said, tes-
"Sorry, sir. He didn't ask for a lawyer/'
The judge sighed. He put both halves of his Parker pen
together, screwed them tight, then laid the pen down.
"How do you plead?" he said to Coffey. "Guilty or not
"Not guilty, Your Honor."
"Very well. Call the first witness."
Constable Armand Bissonette, Radio Mobile Unit, Sta-
tion Number 10, took the stand. Following the witness's
testimony, he was cross-examined by Judge Am6dee Mon-
His HONOR: "Was there anyone else in the street at the
WITNESS: "Not so far as we could see, sir."
His HONOR: "Then no one witnessed the act except the
WITNESS: "Maybe there were people inside the hotel lobby
who saw it."
His HONOR: "Did you actually see any people?"
WITNESS: "No, sir."
His HONOR: "And the doorway was dark?"
WITNESS: "Yes, but there were lights in the lobby, inside
His HONOR: "Were those lights visible from the doorway?"
WITNESS: "Yes, if he had looked in, he would have seen
that it was a hotel lobby. But he was on the wine, sir.
He could hardly see straight."
His HONOR : "He was intoxicated?"
WITNESS: "He's a wino, sir. I smelled the wine off him."
His HONOR: (To accused) "What did you have to drink?"
ACCUSED: "Your Honor, I had some glasses of wine. It was
a sort of a mixture of sherry and Coca-Cola. I didn't in-
tend to get drunk."
His HONOR: "You're Irish, by the sound of you. Is that an
His HONOR: "If that didn't make you drunk, it should have
made you ill. Were you ill?"
ACCUSED: "Yes, Your Honor. I felt a bit dizzy. And I had
been waiting a long time for the bus."
His HONOR: "How long?"
ACCUSED: "More than twenty minutes, sir. Maybe half an
His HONOR: "Half an hour? Well, I can see you're not a
native of this city. Half an hour is not a long time here."
Coffey looked at them: the judge grinning at his witti-
cism, the lawyers looking up to laugh with the bench, the
spectators lolling back in their seats like people enjoying
a joke in church. Seven years in prison and yet they
laughed. But why not? What was he to all these people
except a funny man with a brogue? Not a person; an occa-
sion of laughter. His whole life, back to those days when
he ran past the iron railings of Stephen's Green, late for
school, back through the university years, the Army years,
the years at Kylemore and Coomb-Na-Baun, through
courtship, marriage, fatherhood, his parents' death, his
hopes, his humiliations it was just a joke. All he was this
morning, facing prison and ruin, was an excuse for court-
room sallies. So what did it matter, his life in this world,
when this was what the world was like? Unsurely but
surely he came to that. His hopes, his ambitions, his
dreams: what were they but shams? Only one face in that
courtroom suffered with him, knew him as more than a
joke, was one with him on this awful morning. One face,
which fifteen years ago in Saint Pat's in Dalkey had turned
from the priest to look at him and say "I do."
The judge rapped on his desk. The laughter stopped.
His Honor, Judge Amedee Monceau, addressed the pros-
ecution. His Honor stated that under the circumstances,
the lateness of the hour, the absence of proven intoxica-
tion, the lack of witnesses to the action, the fact that there
was no known previous criminal record, there was some
question in His Honor's mind as to why the police had
preferred the more serious charge. A charge of vagrancy
might, His Honor suggested, have been more appropriate
in this instance.
DETECTIVE-SERGEANT TAILLEFER: "Your Honor, this act
was committed in the doorway of one of the biggest
hotels in the city."
His HONOR: "Yes, but you have not proved that there were
DETECTIVE-SERGEANT TAILLEFER: "Well, the police took
such speedy action, sir, that nobody was disturbed."
His HONOR: "Sergeant, if the police department is ever in
need of a public relations officer, I'll be very happy to
recommend you. But if there are to be any further com-
pliments to the police department this morning, will you
please allow them to come from me?"
Down there in the courtroom the spectators looked up,
enjoying the discomfiture of the police sergeant. No one
looked at him, the central figure in this drama. No one,
not even she. For she sat, her head bent; humiliated. Was
she humiliated because this laughter was a criticism of her,
a mockery of her taste in marrying a man who had inde-
cently exposed himself to the world's ridicule, whose suf-
ferings merited the world's attention only as a subject for
farce? Likely that was it, he thought. For didn't she want
shut of him too, wasn't she here only because the police
had found his true address and ordered her presence in
this court? Oh, Vera, Vera, look at me, would you . . . ?
But she did not look at him. She did not care for him
any more than the rest of them. Nobody cared for him.
His HONOR: "Accused, stand up. Have you anything to
say in your defense?"
ACCUSED: "I didn't know it was a hotel, Your Honor. I
thought it was an office building. It was an accident."
His HONOR: "I see. And in your country is it common prac-
tice to relieve oneself in office doorways? Are you ask-
ing me to believe the Irish are uncivilized?"
ACCUSED: "No, Your Honor."
His HONOR: "I see. Well, let me inform you, Coffey, your
actions last night constitute a serious crime in this Prov-
ince. Now, as I understand it, there were certain extenu-
ating circumstances. It was late at night and you were
at the mercy of the Montreal Transportation Commis-
His HONOR: "And certainly, having imbibed the concoc-
tion which you described to this court there is every
reason that your system should seek to expel it as soon
as possible, in one way or another/'
His HONOR: "However, the fact remains that your action
in a public a very public place might have caused
considerable shock and outrage to innocent bystanders.
In the event of your action being committed deliberately
to shock and outrage such bystanders, the charge laid
against you by the police would seem justified. And, as
I have already told you, the maximum sentence for that
offense is seven years in prison/'
Veronica raised her head. There were tears in her eyes
and her face was terribly pale. She stared at him as though
only she and he were in the room. He looked at her; his
legs no longer trembled. He saw it in her eyes: it was not
shame of him, it was fear for him. He looked up at the
judge, no longer afraid.
His HONOR: "Now, Coffey, in the absence of defending
counsel, this Court considers you to have thrown your-
self upon its mercy. And despite the charge laid against
you by these officers, I am inclined to believe that in
view of the mitigating circumstances there was no crim-
inal intent on your part. So I am giving you the benefit
of the doubt. I hereby sentence you to six months in
prison . . ."
His eyes left the judge's face; went to her below him.
Something had happened. A court usher and a spectator
were bending over her. Fainted? The court usher was help-
ing her from her seat. Watching, Coffey barely heard the
judge's next phrase.
". . . However, in this case, sentence will be suspended,
in view of the fact that you have no previous conviction
and are an immigrant with a wife and child to support.
I am dealing with you leniently, Coffey., because I am
sorry for your family. To be alone in a new country, with
their breadwinner in jail, seems to me a fate which your
wife and child do not deserve. But let me warn you
that if for any reason you again find yourself before this
court, you will, I assure you, have every cause to regret
They had taken her outside. He was all alone now. He
stared at the judge.
His HONOR: "In conclusion, let me remind the police of-
ficers concerned that in cases of this kind all available
evidence should be weighed before a charge is pre-
ferred. It is because of carelessness in determining the
charges against defendants that this court has been
obliged, time after time, to render verdicts against the
prosecution. That is all, gentlemen/'
A warder tapped him on the shoulder. He was led back
to the detention room.
"My wife . . . ?"
One of the warders stepped on Coffe/s toes. It hurt.
"Sorry," the warder said. "What's that you said?"
"My wife, is she . . . ?"
The detective-sergeant, smiling, stepped on Coffey's
toes. "Twenty years on the Force," he said. "And I never
saw a judge give a guy a break like you got. Luck of the
Irish, it must be, eh, Irishman?"
The sergeant poked him in the ribs. It was not a friendly
poke. The warder made him sign for his belongings.
Then, they let him go.
The corridor outside was crowded with people. Wit-
nesses, waiting their turn in court, lawyers in corner con-
ference with clients and colleagues, policemen walking
up and down with the proprietary air of museum guides.
He ran past them all, ranging this way and that, finally
emerging into a large hall where two court ushers sat on
a stone bench near the main door. He went to them.
"Excuse me," he said, newly afraid, for they were po-
licemen. He expected them to shout "NO TALKING."
But instead, they were the police he had always known.
"Did you see a woman? I mean a woman fainted in the
court there, did she go out this way?"
"In a blue coat, right?" the usher said. "Yes, we put her
in a taxi a minute ago."
"I'm her husband," he said. "Do you know the address
she went to?"
They thought this over. One said: "A number on Notre
Dame Street, I think."
He thanked them and turned towards the doorway. He
felt weak, as though he had risen from a month in bed.
Notre Dame Street was Grosvenor's office. Ah, God, it was
plain as the nose on your face. She had fainted: she had
not even waited to hear the whole thing. She had not
waited for him but had gone off to her lover. Ginger's in
jail. Gerry, we're free.
Yes, he had been wrong to hope. He was right the first
time. She did not care about him. Nobody cared.
Through the main doorway, under the Latinate scrolls
to justice and truth, he moved, his step that of an old, old
man. He was a wanderer who had sought the bluebird,
who had seen all, who knew now that this was what the
world was like. He stood at the top of the wide fall of
steps which went down to the streets of the city, that city
of which he had hoped so much, which had laughed at
his hopes, which had turned him out. He looked up at the
sky. Gray clouds ballooned down like the dirty underside
of a great circus tent. Yet, oh! Never since he had lain in a
field as a small boy had the heavens seemed so soaring, so
illimitable. And in that moment his heart filled with an
unpredictable joy. He was free. The night that had
passed, the cells below stairs, the shouting warders, the
terrifying laughter of the spectators in court; it had hap-
pened and yet it had not. It was a nightmare washed into
nothingness by the simple and glorious fact of freedom.
The city, its roofs and cornices crusted with snow, its
rushing inhabitants muffled in furs, seemed a busy, magi-
cal place, a joy to be abroad in. For one liberating mo-
ment he became a child again; lost himself as a child can,
letting himself go into the morning, a drop of water join-
ing an ocean, mystically becoming one.
He forgot Ginger Coffey and Ginger's life. No longer
was he a man running uphill against hope, his shins
kicked, his luck running out. He was no one: he was eyes
staring at the sky. He was the sky.
A passer-by bumped against him; went down the wide
steps. The moment detached itself, leaving him weak and
wondering. That was happiness. Would it ever come
again? Wishing would not bring it back, nor ambitions,
nor sacrifice, nor love. Why was it that true joy, this mo-
mentary release, could come even in his hour of loss and
failure? It could not be wished for: it came unawares. It
came more often in childhood, but it might come again
and again, even at the end of a life.
Slowly, he descended the courthouse steps. Yes, a mo-
mentary happiness might come to him again. But was that
all he could hope for now a few mystical moments
spaced out over a lifetime? Yes, it might be all.
Wish if I could wish, what would I wish for now?
But he thought of her. He thought of his promise to go
away. He must not wish. He must go. Yes, he must go.
Fourteen He let himself in, cautiously. There was
always the chance that Veronica might have come back.
But when he opened the hall closet, her coat was not
there. As Paulie was at school, there was no further need
for him to be quiet. He went into the bedroom and began
to pack a suitcase. He took shirts from the dresser drawer,
avoiding the man in the mirror. He no longer felt any in-
terest in that man. He no longer felt any interest in Ginger
Coffey. He felt like someone else.
Suddenly, down the hall, the shower went on. Satur-
day! Of course. Paulie was at home. He wanted to hide.
He did not want questions; did not want to be forced to
explain why he must go. Hurriedly, he tried to finish the
clumsy job of stuffing his clothes into the suitcase. But the
suitcase slid off the bed with a thump. The shower
stopped. He heard Paulie's footsteps in the corridor.
"Mummy, is that you? . . . Mummy? . . . Who's that?"
Her voice changed from inquiry to doubt, to fear, and of
course it was not fair to frighten her by letting her think
he was a thief or something. He opened the door and
there was Paulie in her bathrobe, her face and neck still
dewed with shower steam. "Oh, it's you, Daddy," she
said. "Where were you?"
"No, I mean where were you? We were nearly de-
mented. And then, this morning, when that policeman
came in the car for Mummy, I was sure you were in a hos-
pital or even killed. Now what happened?"
"I was in jail," he said.
"Oh, you're joking!" But as she said it, she ran to him
and hugged him. "I was worried, Daddy."
"Were you, Pet?" He was surprised. He took her face in
his hands and raised it up. Yes, she took after him: there
was something of him in her reddish hair, her worried
eyes. She was his child and she had worried for him. If
he asked her to come away with him now, she might
come. . . .
But where? And why? His hand stroked the back of her
head. She loved him: it was more than he had a right to ex-
pect. Let her be.
"My hair's just set," she said. "Please don't mess it,
He released her. He must finish his packing, without
her knowing. "What about getting me some coffee?" he
"Okay, Daddy. But what is all this about jail?"
"It's a long story, Apple. I'll tell you some other time/'
"Tell me now."
"Some other time," he said.
She went to the kitchen. He shut the bedroom door and
picked the bag off the floor, repacking it. She had worried
for him: she loved him. That moved him more than he
thought he could be moved again. Still, he had made a
promise. He must go. He shut the suitcase and, so that she
would not see it, he went to the hall closet and hid it. After
the coffee, he would slip away . . .
But the hall door opened as he closed the closet. Veron-
ica. Slowly, he turned to face her. It was like those long
ago days when, having failed the examination, you must
face the anger, the reproach.
"Is it you?" she said.
"But you're supposed to be in jail?"
"It was a suspended sentence."
He looked at her. She looked at him. Caught, like stran-
gers who eye each other on a train, they pretended the
glance was accidental.
"Well . . ." he said. He opened the closet and took out
his car coat.
"Are you going out?"
He put on his coat and reached in again for his little
green hat. "I'm going away. They're not going to make me
a reporter, now or ever. So you can get the divorce. I'll be
in touch with you."
He stood for a moment, facing the closet; feeling
watched; not wanting to meet the eyes that watched him.
"What about Paulie? Does Paulie know?"
"No," he said.
"Well, don't you think you should tell her?"
"You tell her." He turned, little green hat in one hand,
suitcase in the other. "Would you open the door for me,
Their eyes met. One person in the whole world who
had known him; one person who knew him as more than a
joke. A person who, fifteen years ago in Saint Pat's in Dai-
key, had knelt beside him at the altar and promised . . .
"Before you go," she said. "There's one thing I want to
explain. I didn't run away this morning."
He put down his suitcase. He would have to open the
door himself. She wasn't going to help him.
"Listen, Ginger. When I heard the judge say 'Six
months,' I keeled over. Then, when they took me out, I
thought the best thing to do would be to go to Gerry's of-
fice and try to get a lawyer so that you could appeal."
He opened the door and picked up his suitcase.
"You don't believe me, is that it?"
"It doesn't matter," he said. It did not matter.
"Gerry refused to help you," she said. "That's why I
came back here."
"Look, Vera, I have to go now."
"But, just a second, will you?" Her voice was urgent
and strained. "I want to tell you what Gerry said to me.
He said it was the best thing that could have happened.
He said it would make the divorce easier. That's all he
"Well, it doesn't matter, does it?" he said. "It's former
She bent her head, and suddenly rubbed at her eyes
with her knuckles, leaving a smudge of mascara on the
bridge of her nose. "Dammit," she said. "I'm sorry. Don't
you see, I'm sorry?"
Sorry? What was she sorry about? What did "sorry"
cure? She'd told him that once. Now, he knew what she
meant. He stood, suitcase in hand, at the open doorway.
He must go.
"Wait," she said. "There's something else too. Only I
can't tell it, with you standing there like some door-to-
door salesman. Come into our room a minute. I don't
want Paulie to hear."
Unwillingly, he put down his suitcase and followed her
back to the bedroom. What use was there in all this? Why
must she make it so hard?
She shut the bedroom door. "Now, listen," she said. "I
never slept with Gerry. On my word of honor. I wouldn't
do it until you and I were legally separated."
He nodded. Get it over with.
"You should have seen Gerry just now/' she said. "He
behaved like a total stranger. How could anyone love a
person who'd let someone go to jail and be glad of it? He
doesn't love me, either, he just wants me. Whereas you
you stood up in the courtroom this morning and gave a
false name for my sake and for Paulie's "
She stopped. She seemed to be waiting for him to tell
"All right then," she said. "If that's the way of it, won't
you even kiss me good-by?"
Kiss this stranger? Unwillingly, he put his arms around
her. She was shaking. He looked down at the nape of her
neck, bared by her new hairdo. It was unfamiliar, yet
familiar. Ah GodI Had he been wrong in that, as well?
For, now that he held her, she was no stranger at all, but
Veronica, the woman he had slept with how many thou-
sand nights. Veronica: older and heavier than the girl he
had married, her breasts a little too big, her eyes edged
with small white lines, her hand, now touching his cheek,
roughened by years over sinks and washtubs. Veronica,
No stranger: not desirable.
"Ginger," she said. "You still love me, don't you? You
said you did."
Love her? This body familiar as his own . . . Desire
her? This woman growing old . . .
"Even if you don't love me," she said. "There's Paulie.
That child wept half the night, worrying about you. You
can't walk out on her now."
Didn't you walk out on Paulie? he thought. But what
was the use in blaming her? Blame was his. "Look," he
said. "You'd be better off, you and Paulie . . ."
He did not go on. Someone else was saying all this. Not
Ginger Coffey. Someone who had stopped looking for the
good in the bad; who had stopped running uphill in
hopes; someone who knew the truth. He did not love her:
he could no longer love. He did not want to watch her
cry. She was getting old: she was just another illusion he
no longer had.
He began to button his overcoat.
"No, we wouldn't," she was saying. "Because it wasn't
only your fault, it was mine. When I saw Gerry just now
I mean, saw the real Gerry I knew it was my fault.
What I mean is, I'd like to start again. Listen, we could
start again if you wanted to? You could get that job as Mr.
Brott's Personal Assistant, if you went and asked for it."
He looked down at her. Yes, that was true. He might get
that job. He could become, now and forevermore, amen,
the glorified secretary she had always thought he was.
What did it matter? What was so terrible about that?
Didn't most men try and fail, weren't most men losers?
Didn't damn nearly everyone have to face up someday to
the fact that their ship would never come in?
He had tried. He had not won. He would die in humble
"I'm sure he'd give you the job," she said. "Honestly,
Ginger, I'm sure of it."
He smiled. Wasn't that familiar, somehow?
"Don't laugh," she said. "You'll see!"
"I'm not laughing," he told her.
"Why, listen," she said. "In a year or two we'll have for-
gotten this ever happened."
He did not feel like someone else now. She did.
"And if you do stay," she said. "I'd never ask you to go
home again. You were right. Home is here, we're far bet-
ter off here. Why, in a month or two, with my job and
your job, we'd be sitting pretty. You were right. This was
only a crush, I had. Why, I'll bet you "
"A brand-new frock, Vera?"
She stopped. She looked at him, her eyes blinding with
tears. "Oh, Ginger," she said. "I sound like you."
"I know you do." He went to her, put his arm around
her and opened the bedroom door.
"Your coffee's ready," Paulie called from the kitchen.
"And do you want an egg, Daddy?"
Beside him, Vera waited his answer.
"HI have two eggs," he said.
"Good. I'll put them on," Paulie said.
"No, Til do it," Vera said. Quickly, she went out of the
room and down the hall.
He pushed the bedroom door, let it drift shut. He un-
buttoned his overcoat. In the dresser mirror, the man be-
gan to cry. Detached, he watched the tears run down that
sad impostor's face, gather on the edges of that large mus-
tache. Why was that man boohooing? Because he no
longer lusted for his wife? Because he wasn't able to leave
her? Ah, you idjit, you. Don't you know that love isn't just
going to bed? Love isn't an act, it's a whole life. It's stay-
ing with her now because she needs you; it's knowing you
and she will still care about each other when sex and day-
dreams, fights and futures when all that's on the shelf
and done with. Love why, I'll tell you what love is : it's
you at seventy-five and her at seventy-one, each of you
listening for the other's step in the next room, each afraid
that a sudden silence, a sudden cry, could mean a life-
time's talk is over.
He had tried: he had not won. But oh! what did it mat-
ter? He would die in humble circs: it did not matter.
There would be no victory for Ginger Coffey, no victory
big or little, for there, on the courthouse steps, he had
learned the truth. Life was the victory, wasn't it? Going on
was the victory. For better for worse, for richer for poorer,
in sickness and in health . . . till . . .
He heard her step outside. He went to join her.